only help my unbelief

What I’m Learning from Memorizing Scripture
January 23, 2009, 9:13 am
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As I’ve said before, encouraging Scripture memorization is one of my passions. For too long that discipline was inactive in my life, but recently God has been cultivating a love for His Word in my heart.

The funny thing is, when I write about Scripture memorization here, the traffic remains the same, and the post rarely gets viewed. But when I write about LOST or how I met Christian, traffic jumps to three times its normal rate.

Now, I don’t really care how many people visit my blog. I don’t have any advertising, so it’s not like I’m trying to earn money. And enough people read it and mention things I’ve written to me that I don’t feel like my writing is futile.

What I’m trying to say is, I’m going to keep writing about memorizing Scripture, even if no one reads these posts. It’s helpful to me to think about the process of memorizing and meditating, because it makes it even more real to me.

When I started memorizing 1 John, I thought that what I would take away from it was the ability to recite the whole book. I still hope that’s true, but there is so much more than that. The Word truly is living and active.

God answers prayers to love His Word with a love for His Word.
Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise, but I’m a firm believer that God always answers this prayer. When I started memorizing 1 John in November, it was slow going. I tried to memorize six verses a week, but it took me several weeks to memorize the first chapter (10 verses). But then I started praying that God would give me a love for His Word that expressed itself in a diligence in memorizing it. If you’re struggling with wondering if God really does answer prayer, then try praying about this and just see if He doesn’t answer. He will.

It gets easier as you go.
This was a surprise to me, because I thought that when I got into the middle of the book, it would get harder, because there was so much more to review. Actually, the farther I get in, the more encouraged I get, so the more I want to memorize. Whereas in the first couple weeks it was a struggle to memorize even one verse a day, now I’m trying to memorize two verses a day, and sometimes three if they’re somewhat familiar and not too long. Of course, you should never press on too quickly at the expense of remembering previous verses, but if you’re struggling in the beginning, take heart. It will get easier as your mind becomes more adept at memorizing.

Sin is no longer as tempting.
Well, some sin, anyway. Unfortunately, our hearts really are deceitful above all things, and just because you’ve got solid words of truth in your heart doesn’t mean that you’re never going to sin. But God tells us in Ephesians 6 that the Word is a sword, and that means He means for us to use it to fight against the devil, and, sometimes, against our own hearts. 1 John 3:10 says, “By this it is evident who are the children of God and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love His brother.” I won’t get into the theology of losing our salvation, because I don’t believe that we can, but I do believe that God is serious about sin. Several times since I’ve memorized that verse and been tempted toward sins that I daily struggle with, I’ve been able to recall that verses – “Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God.” Add to that a sincere prayer that God will rescue you from the temptation, and Satan has no chance.

Books with Scripture references are way more fun to read.
This is probably bad, but most of the time when I’m reading a book with Scripture references in it, I don’t often look them up. Sometimes, of course, the author actually quotes the verses, but sometimes it’s just the reference. This hasn’t happened much, yet, but in one book I’m reading, the author quoted at different points several verses from the beginning of 1 John. I saw the reference, and the verse popped into my head. I probably wouldn’t have looked them up, so having the verse in my head actually increased how much I was edified by the book.

Scripture memorization precedes Scripture memorization.
It’s true that I’ve gotten more encouraged to finish up 1 John since I started, but I’ve also found an increasing desire to keep memorizing after I’ve finished. My goal before was simply to finish 1 John before the wedding, but because I’ve been able to pick up the pace a little bit, now I’m going to try to finish 1 John by the beginning of March, and then try to memorize as much of the book of James as I can before the wedding – especially chapter 3, which focuses a lot on the tongue. Which needs a lot of work, in my case. And I’ve made a list of other things I want to memorize – several Psalms, Romans 8, the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes. These are long-term goals, but the more Scripture I get into my heart, the more I want to be in there.

I truly hope none of what I’ve written sounds like I’m bragging. I’ve been a Christian for about 17 years, and until I started this endeavor last fall, I had very little Scripture captured in my heart apart from verses I learned when I was under the age of 10. I’ve wasted many, many years in which my mind was fresh and hungry for knowledge. My hope is that in reading about how rich the experience of memorizing Scripture has been for me, you will discover the joy of having God’s Word in your heart, no matter how old you are.

I don’t know what the coming years will bring, but if the past couple of years are any indication, persecution is becoming more and more common. And I don’t know if it will ever get to the point that our Bibles are taken away from us, but what if they are? I want us to be ready.


Retaining Scripture you’ve already memorized
January 12, 2009, 8:00 am
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Most people, given a few minutes during the day, can memorize something. Even if you have a cell phone, you probably have numerous phone numbers memorized. You know addresses of family members. You might know your license plate number. You know your social security number.

So it’s really not that difficult to sit down and memorize a verse of Scripture, even a longer verse. If it’s already familiar, even better. Take a verse I memorized last week, 1 John 3:1

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

If you spend 10 minutes right now reading that verse out loud several times, then repeating it without looking several times, you could probably memorize it.

That’s all well and good, but will you be able to remember it tomorrow?

As I’m working on memorizing the book of 1 John, making sure I’m retaining the verses I’ve already memorized is more and more important. When I was working on 1 John 1:6, it wasn’t so hard to quickly repeat the first five verses. Even when I was into chapter 2, it wasn’t so bad, because there were only 10 verses in the first chapter. But last week I finished chapter 2, which, added to chapter 1, means I’ve memorize 39 verses. It actually takes a fair amount of time to repeat those back – and I also want to memorize a new verse every day.

For several weeks, I did repeat all the verses I had learned almost every day. But as time went on, I realized that I knew some of the earlier verses so well, I didn’t really need to keep repeating them. At the same time, before I continued on to chapter 3, I wanted to make sure I knew 1 John 2 backwards and forwards, especially since there were some verses I had stumbled over. I developed a simple system of checking myself. This takes about 30 minutes, depending on how much your reviewing, but it’s worth the time if you retain the verses.

Many of these principles I gleaned from the helpful article An Approach to the Extended Memorization of Scripture. The author discusses ”weeding the garden” (reading through passages you’ve already memorized to catch stray words) as well as picking a time each week to review certain passages.

1. Review a chapter at a time.

I started by opening up a blank document in Microsoft Word and typing out 1 John 1, which each verse on a different line beginning with the verse number. When I finished that, I checked it with my Bible.

2. If you don’t have any trouble with that chapter, plan a time to review it.

I didn’t miss any words, so I decided that I would relegate that chapter to a specific time each week. I chose Sunday afternoons, so I wrote that in my planner.

3. For longer chapters, review the verses out of order.

Now for 1 John 2. This chapter was interesting to memorize, because some parts of it were very familiar – like verses 2 and 15 through 17 – but others were completely unfamiliar.

It’s also taken me more than a month to memorize this chapter, so I wanted to make sure I really, really knew it. I also wanted to make sure that I knew each verse individually with its verse number. It’s helpful to know it no matter what, but if someone asked me what 1 John 2:20 said, I didn’t want to have to quietly say the first 19 verses.

To test myself, I opened another Word document and began typing in random numbers on each line (8, 17, 26, etc.) until I had all the numbers 1 through 29.

From there, I just typed whatever verse went with each number. They were out of order, so I couldn’t cheat by knowing what verse came around it.

After I finished, I checked what I had typed with my Bible. Out of the 29 verses, there were 11 that weren’t quite right.

4. Review problem verses until you’re sure of them.

In most of them, I had forgotten a word like ”but” or ”that,” but I wanted to be exact. I deleted all the verses I had gotten right, jotted down the 11 verse numbers I needed to work on, and then re-did the Word document randomly typing those 11 numbers on each line.

I then repeated what I had done earlier by typing in the verses again. Because checking them in my Bible had refreshed my memory, I was able to correctly enter in 10 of the 11 verses on the second try. For that last verse, I just typed it in correctly several times to remind myself.

5. Continue choosing specific times each week to review passages you’ve mastered.

Even though I had pretty much convinced myself I knew those verses, I was concerned that I was a little shaky on the second half of the chapter, mostly because I often memorized those verses in packs of 2 or 3, instead of one at a time (because I slacked off and got behind).

Just to make sure, I decided that I would relegate 1 John 2:1-17 to Sunday afternoons along with 1 John 1, because I haven’t had any problems with those verses. For 1 John 2:18-29, though, I’ll keep repeating those every day for the next couple of weeks (maybe until I’m done with 1 John 3).

For those of you who aren’t as technical or who feel like this is a chore, then adjust it to your life. Maybe you’d rather write out verses, or maybe you don’t have any problems reviewing 40 or 50 verses a day, and you don’t need my system at all. But for those of you who are placing an emphasis on memorizing Scripture and are worried about retaining those verses over time, I hope that my method helps.