"Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee." (Ps.119:11)
When it comes to memorizing God's Word we have struck upon a subject that all of us have worked on at one time or another. Just stop and think about the marvelous reality that the Creator of the universe has Himself taken an active interest in you and in me. He has written this wonderful letter to us called the Bible and wants each of us to come to know Him personally! That makes me want to study and learn the Scriptures so that I can find out what He has to say to me.
Memorizing God's Word is an important part of gaining faith, and through faith, gaining God's approval (Heb 11:2). Memorizing Scripture gives us the option of meditating on God's Word when we don't have it around (as in having a Bible handy). Deuteronomy 6 tells us to mediate on God's Word (and teach our children to do likewise) when we sit, walk, lie down and rise up…. How can we do that unless we have it with us in a form that cannot be left behind, forgotten, or forcibly removed from our possession? How many of God's choice servants down through history have preached from memory, because that is all they had left. If they had not committed portions of God's word to memory, they would have had nothing.
There are so many benefits to be gained from memorizing God's Word, Psalms 1: 2, 3 says "But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in His law doth he meditated day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; its leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." Memorizing implants the Word into our minds, from here we can recall it on a moments notice, enabling us to meditate upon it no matter where we are or what we are doing. By meditating on the Word we are taking the head knowledge of the words we have learned and we are transferring them down to our heart where they can transform our lives. Head knowledge profits us only a little unless we are able to transport it into our hearts, that's what meditation does!
Anyone can memorize God's Word and the personal discipline to accomplish the memorization of long portions of Scripture is time well spent. However, memorization alone will not necessarily bear the fruit we seek. We have God's promise, His Word "will not return void," Isa. 55:11, however there is no time table on that promise. Meditation, however, has a more specific promise attached – "your way will be prosperous and you will have success" Josh 1:8. Also Ps 1:2, 3 "you will yield fruit in its season and your leaf will not wither, and you will prosper in whatever you do."
By all means, memorize large portions of Scripture, especially while the children are young, but do three other things as well. Overlearn the passage so it becomes a permanent part of you. Meditate on the portions so God can speak to you through them. Now do the things He taught you. These final three steps will make those portions yours and guarantee the promises of God to you and your children for it moves God's Word from your head to your heart. And yes, it does work!
What we put into our heart is exactly what will come out for "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh". Matt 12:34 So if I don't like what is coming out of my mouth then I had better change what I'm putting into my heart! Meditation is the process whereby the Word (or anything else for that matter both good and evil), once it has been imbedded in the mind, is transferred down to the heart. There are many personal variations to the actual process of meditation. Basically it's the steps whereby you take a bit of Scripture, chew it up, digest it and allow it to become part of you. It's not a fast process, instead, go slow and take time to mull over the truths, always seeking God's wisdom and the teaching of His Holy Spirit as you begin to explore the depths that He has hidden in each verse. God says His Word is milk and meat; you've got to eat it down before it will do you any good.
I usually memorize verses before I meditate on them. This makes it easy to call them to mind during the 'night watches'. Once memorized I will repeat a verse over and over, thinking of it in the first person (personalizing it if necessary). It also helps to break a verse down into concepts and emphasize a concept several times before moving on to the next concept.
One very important thing that the memorized Word assists us with is the process whereby we renew our minds. Romans 12:2 says that we are not to be "conformed to this world but rather we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds." Renewing the mind is an ongoing process. Because we do not naturally think like God thinks we must constantly replace our thoughts with His. This is particularly important when evil or impure thoughts enter our minds, if we just sit there doing nothing, all the while telling ourselves, "I can't think on this, I must not think on this..." we will fail. Instead we must replace the bad thought with a different thought, simply take a Scripture verse that you have memorized and start thinking/meditating on it and you will find that the bad thought will disappear. Romans 12 goes on to say that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we "may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God". Now that is a very exciting proposition!
For those of you raised without Christ and in the public system, here is a way to deep clean your memory. It also helps heal emotional wounds. Meditate on the Psalms every night before bed. At first, this practice is very difficult as it surfaces all the garbage and wounds so that you dream awful stuff. But over time, the Psalms will dredge out all the crud, leaving you with sweet, peaceful sleep.
A continual battle for the mind is taking place. I choose my thoughts. God commands us to "take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ." 2 Co 10:5 This is not just blatantly evil thoughts, but my whole thought time. My whole concentration all day long needs to be in subjection to what Christ wants. "Redeem the time for the days are evil." Eph 5:16
As I learn more about the Christian life, I am discovering that God does not intend us to 'try harder' to live the Christian life. This is pretty basic, but that is what I have been doing when I 'try' to obey God's commands myself. I am totally incapable in myself of living the Christian life. ("For I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing:" Rom 7:18) Instead, Christ is the only One Who can live the Christian life, and He desires to do so through me. "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do His good pleasure." I need to make myself available for God to do it. Then it is that He empowers me to honor Him with my thoughts.
When an evil thought or temptation enters my mind, I cry out for purification. When I am in submission to Christ, He immediately purifies my mind. With every temptation, He has promised a way of escape. (I wonder at His grace to a disobedient, wayward, arrogant son like me. I can only praise His faithfulness!) If I choose to think on evil despite God's provision, then I must seek forgiveness. Truly my God is longsuffering! Any sin gives the devil an opportunity in my life, so I must regularly take back that ground I give to Satan. Of course I do this from my position in Christ, where I am seated in the heavenly places. Personally, however, I don't do this very often. Whenever I am tempted I also have an excellent reminder to pray for family members for "No temptation is taken you but such as is common to man." 1 Co 10:13
So, I need to submit to whatever God wants of me. From that relationship to Christ, I need to ask God to keep me in total dependence on Him all day long for His thoughts.
Over the past 18 or so years, we have memorized quite a few portions of Scripture both short and long. We have found that there are lots of different techniques that can be employed. Little children have amazing memories and can therefore pick up Scripture very quickly. Several years ago during our December break, when Ammi was just a little girl (around 2) we memorized Luke 2:1-21 as a family. She picked it up just as quickly as anyone else. It was so delightful to hear her toddling around the house quoting it virtually word perfect to herself!
Many of us children have a spiral bound notebook in which we have recorded all of our memorized portions of Scripture. The writing process helps to solidify the passage in the mind plus it makes review very easy because we have it all right there so that we can work systematically through the verses and not overlook any one passage.
From time to time our family has chosen a specific passage of Scripture to memorize as a group, such as Matt.5, 6 and 7, I Cor.13, Phil.4: 8-9, Ex.20:1-17, and Prov. 6:6-11. Dad begins by reading the whole portion, he then goes back and reads the first verse several times to familiarize us with it. After this we all join in repeating the verse over and over again in unison. Moving on we add in the second verse and repeat both. Gradually, through the following days we add more verses until it gets so long that we aren't saying the new verse very often. We then drop the first few verses and continue on with the latter ones. Each day we begin by having one or more people say the part they know by themselves, with Dad's help, and then we go on to memorizing the new verse together. Each person also writes out the passage on a 3"x5" index card to review throughout the day. As we memorize, Dad encourages us to discuss the verses we are learning. It does no good to learn Scripture and never apply it to our lives. Working together in a group keeps us all accountable and progressing and helps the little ones to learn even when they cannot yet read.
Usually we don't memorize just verses but rather whole chapters. Many of us are working on memorizing First, Second and Third John. But sometimes we memorize just a portion of a chapter like the portion about going to the ant (Pro.6: 6-11), the Lords Prayer (Matt.6: 9-13), rejoice in the Lord (Phil.4: 4-9) and many more. We always like to finish a portion before we move on to another one. We (all of us) have done a lot of memorizing in Romans and Proverbs. I like to memorize.
One thing that we do to help with Bible memory is to write out the verse we are memorizing on a blackboard. We place the blackboard in the living room where we can see and read it as we pass by throughout the day. Also with the blackboard it is easy to erase a few of the words, leaving their places blank so that we have to reproduce those words from memory as we read along. As the day passes, the passage can become quite difficult unless you have memorized it. (John 3:16 would look something like this: For __ so __ the __ that He __ __ __ __ __ that __ __ in __ __ not __ but__ __ __.) All the repetition helps to solidify the verse in our minds.
This process can be condensed and used effectively with little children. Pick a stretch of time some evening, 15-20 minutes works well, and have the children take turns using the eraser. Start by saying the verse five or more times and then erasing two or three words, say the verse again and erase two or three more words, say the verse again, and so on until you have it pretty well memorized. This small bit of activity helps to hold the children's attention and with a little practice they can learn new portions very quickly.
It was sometime around 1995 when Dad and Mom first offered to pay $50 for each chapter that we memorized in the book of Proverbs. In the back of my Bible there is a list of chapters that I have memorized along with the date that they were completed. November of 1996 was the date when I finished Proverbs chapter one and received my very first $50 prize. Since that time many other chapters have also been memorized by different ones of us children.
Mom: "Best investment I ever made. Thanks Mike (Farris)."
In 2001-02 (I was about 9) I took up Dad and Mom's offer of paying $50 for each chapter of Proverbs memorized. I started with Proverbs chapter 9. At this time Hannah was having us girls quote scripture verses to each other each evening before we went to sleep. Therefore, each night I recited what I had memorized to the other girls. It wasn't long before Joanna and Ammi joined me in an endeavor to master the chapter. In December 2002 I succeeded, earning $50. Joanna and Ammi also finished soon afterwards. (Dad and Mom have since then included some chapters of Romans in the offer as well.)
For almost all the Scripture memory we do, we use verse cards. On a 3 by 5 index card we will write out as many verses as it will hold. We carry these everywhere. I like to use fairly large print so that I can read it even while walking or doing some other work. Accountability is very helpful in a discipline like this. Whether we are memorizing as a family or individually, Dad or an accountability partner can ask to see our memory card at any time. Of course, just carrying it doesn't mean I actually pull it out and read it. Memorizing as a group helps a lot. If we have a task where we have free thought time together we can help each other quote the portion. Desiring to not be left behind is a big motivation to read my card. (I know that is not the best motivation, however, it is something that motivates me.) Group memorization means that we each get to hear the passage many times as others recite it. Throughout the day we can encourage one another to memorize. Just seeing someone pull out their card is a good prompting. Actually memorizing Scripture throughout our day takes hardly any time. We are just redeeming our time by doing more than one thing. Often when I can't look at my card for awhile I will be able to meditate on the last lines I read. Chores like washing dishes or grinding flour don't take much thought time.
Many years ago we ran a challenge to memorize and quote one hundred Bible verses (J and H were the only two old enough to participate). There was a deadline to meet and a prize to acquire. Both of which helped motivate. I can still remember the last week, striving to reach the total. While at the time I was more concerned with the contest than the content, the verses once memorized are there to stay. God promises that His word "will not return without accomplishing that which He pleases," Is. 55:11 so reading/memorizing His word will always provide benefit, even if it is done for the wrong reasons.
Sometimes we memorize verses during breakfast time. Dad has his verse cards and helps us along as we take turns quoting the part we know. The people who aren't quoting can eat their breakfast. Then Dad reads the new verse for the day and we all repeat it after him many times. Then one or two people try to say all the verses including the new one. By then we're about done with breakfast.
Another excellent way to memorize Scripture is through song. We are not a very musical family, however, we have acquired 20+ different songs through the years that are nothing more than Scripture which has been set to music. The flow of the song, the music and being able to actually sing the words has an amazing ability to implant the Word deep into the memory. I have often found that during those days or in my case those nights when I cannot recall enough of any one portion of Scripture to have it flow together, the portions which are set to music are always fresh and readily available. My favorite Scripture songs are those of praise and worship like Rev 4:11 and 5:12. I also have a particular love for prayers like Psa.5:1-3.
I like singing scripture songs. I have memorized some of the words so that I can sing them with everyone else. Sometimes we sing them at our campfires, sometimes when we go to bed and sometimes by candle light. Most days I hum them to myself.
Posting Scripture verses throughout our house in strategic places where our eyes will pass over them at regular intervals is another very good prompting for us to memorize a verse and once we have memorized it to meditate upon it. At the top of our stairs is a wall hanging of Isaiah 12:2. As I ascend those 13 steps my eyes will necessarily fall upon that drawing and the first thing that pops into my mind, even when I am too far away to read the words is, "Behold God is my Salvation…" As I go on my way down the hall those are the words on which I am thinking. By my bed is another verse, every morning as I get dressed it is staring me in the face, reminding me through Psalms 107:31 to praise the Lord.
Scripture memory is the key to Scripture meditation and that meditation may very well be the key that unlocks the door to a transforming of your Christian life. It has definitely transformed mine.
In closing we will ask one of our young people to share how memorization has impacted his life.
There are many benefits of Bible memorization. First, I would like to mention that it gives me a profitable way to spend my free thought time which would have otherwise been wasted in the harmful activity of daydreaming. Also, not only after a portion is memorized but also while I am working on it, I am able to meditate on it, which God commands, "Meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success."(Josh.1:8) Memorizing puts Gods thoughts into my mind so that over time I will begin to think the same way God does. His wisdom is so much greater than that of this world that, that alone is enough to give success. Also, with portions memorized, I have readily available to me the Sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (Eph.6:17) wherewith I can counter temptations and attacks of the evil one. As a final note, I have found it helpful with Bible studies to not have to look up everything in the Concordance but to be able to recall the more commonly used portions on my own.
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