Monday, January 2, 2012

Discipline of Scripture Memory

Deuteronomy 11:18-21 "You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking o them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth."

A few years ago, I started practicing the discipline of memorizing Scripture. I started by recalling verses I already had stored up. I knew a lot more than I realized because I had been learning Scripture unintentionally through songs. For instance, I learned Romans 16:19-20 through a song at church camp: "Be excellent at what is good, be innocent of evil; for the God of peace will soon crush Satan underneath your feet." And I learned Revelation 21:8 in the same way - the song went, "Revelation, Revelation 21:8, 21:8 - Liars go to hell, liars go to hell, burn, burn, burn!" :)  But I set out to deliberately commit verses to memory, and I loved every minute of it.

By the time Blake and I started dating, I was obsessed with memorizing Scripture. I would hand him the list of verses I knew and I would ask him to quiz me! It was so much fun, and I was so amazed at how easy it was to store God's word in my mind. And then, little by little, the excitement started to fade. It became harder and harder to memorize verses - not just to commit them to memory, but to choose the verse and then stick with it was a chore. And I even stopped doing quiet times altogether for a while. Life was so busy, and what I had been doing wasn't working anymore. I had to work through some struggles to overcome my need for productivity... and eventually I regained my sense of self in the Lord. I wanted to get back into scripture memory, but I was lost... I was going to have to start all over.

So this year, topping my wish list was the book 100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart by Robert Morgan. He's the guy who wrote the Then Sings My Soul series, where he gave the backstories to some of the most famous hymns. The book gives, of course, 100 verses along with commentary and neat little bits of insight to help bring the verse to life. My goal is to commit these 100 verses within the year. Some of them are rather easy, so I want not only to memorize the verse, but to also try to memorize the passage surrounding the verse (or at least have a general idea of what is happening).

During my first attempt at scripture memory, I was more fascinated with growing my list of committed verses and I didn't really invest time in meditating on the context of the verse. I was like a chicken pecking at a multitude of scattered seeds - working diligently and ingesting a lot, but just picking bits here and there without ever looking up at what was around me. So, this time around, I want to spend more time letting the words sink in, meditate on them, saturate my soul with them.

Some people think that the art of memorizing Scripture is unnecessary. I mean, if you have a smartphone you can have the Bible at your fingertips as long as you have your phone. But storing the words in your memory is so much more than verse retrieval. It's life-giving.

At a time in my life when I was dealing with intense anger, I memorized Ephesians 4:26-27 - "Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil."When I would feel the burn of anger rise in my soul, I would repeat these verses to myself. I would remember: yes, be angry... but do not sin.

At a time when my soul was dry, I committed to memory Psalm 51:12, "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit." And I would pray that verse regularly, letting God restore in me what had been malnourished.

Memorizing Scripture is more than just knowing a whole bunch of verses. It's about having the verses so ingrained in your being that they minister to you internally. The word of God is alive, and when it is alive in you, it transforms your whole mind (Romans 12:12).

For 2012, I want to recommit myself to planting the seeds of Truth in my mind. It is such a beautiful facet of intimacy with the Lord and I know it will produce a plentiful harvest.

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