Tag Archive for 'Scripture memory'

Scripture Memory and Smartphones

If you have a smartphone, now you really have no excuse. I’ve been thinking about possibly memorizing some Scripture again. I wrote about the watch beep method in Scripture Memory: My Story (in two parts with links to other resources). The problem with a watch beep is it’s so easy to get used to the sound and stop hearing it. I firmly believe that when I memorized Scripture for the first few years, God enabled me to hear it every single time. Now with smartphones, we can use an hourly chime app to remind us to look at our current verse. (For a while I did this on my computer, working at home.) The chime can be changed if we get used to it, and there is the option to use vibrate. There are also Scripture memory apps. It’s great how we can use technology for Bible reading plans, reading or listening during downtime (as little as that happens for some people), and memorizing. If you have one, do you use yours in any other ways?

Which means you’ve gotta fight to learn these [verses] and memorize these things and have these verses tumbling around in your fore-frontal lobal brain part. Whatever that is.

–John Piper

You know that verse where it says something like…?

I can’t paraphrase worth beans. Sometimes it’s better not to even try so I don’t mangle Scripture. I think that’s why God gave me the gift of memorizing it. I started out with the Topical Memory System and after that I memorized anything that God used to reveal something to me, anything I was especially fond of, convicting, helpful for prayer, comforting, required for a Bible study, etc. What a great gift to have all of that in my brain, given that I had such a hard time memorizing things in school, along with everything else schoolish.

Was it Einstein who said not to memorize something that you can look up? (That’s a terrible excuse not to memorize Scripture, and if anyone said that I’d chastise them from here to kingdom come.) However, since my brain is full up on memorized Scripture right now–including reviewing sections of them at least six days a week, in addition to memorizing and retaining Greek vocabulary–if I could add some references to Scripture that I could look up (if you can look it up, you have to know where to look it up, Einstein!) but not necessarily memorize, maybe I could fit some of those into my brain right now. (Was that too long of a sentence?)

It would be a good way to have an even better grasp of where things are in Scripture. Maybe it would be good to memorize what each chapter or half of a chapter of a book is about. Just the topics in Romans and letters to Corinthians would be good.

It goes without saying that this should not take the place of regular Scripture memory. The Bible didn’t have chapters until the 1300s or verses until the 1500s. People had to know it in large sections and so should we. Scripture doesn’t tell us to hide verse references in our heart.

Does anybody do this?

Here are some I’ve gathered. A lot seem to be wisdom stuff obviously.
-Not too rich or poor
-Just kidding
-Other gospel
-Prov 26:4-5
-Prov 18:2

P.S. As an aside: some recommend memorizing verses, at least to start out, and some say to only memorize chapters or books. I think both are valuable. Having a lot of 1-3 verse passages memorized that are scattered throughout the Bible gives you a good idea of where things are and what topic a chapter or part of a chapter is about. But it’s very important that a single verse be a complete idea and that you have a good understanding of the context. Otherwise, memorize passages–as long as it takes to be a complete idea. Gordon Fee said that the worst thing to happen to the Bible are verse numbers. We’re constantly blaming the media for taking what people say out of context and yet we do it with the Bible all the time.

Everything you wanted to know about Scripture memory

This is the most comprehensive page of information I’ve ever seen. It’s more than most people would want to read, but you can read what may be of interest to you or come up with some materials for others you may be ministering to.

Memorizing His Word

Here are a couple of highlights that I strongly agree with.

I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture…No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified.

–Dr. Chuck Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994, p. 61) [so good they mentioned it twice]

One note of caution – Be careful when memorizing single verses that you do not “wrench” them out of their context, lest you give the passage a meaning (and an interpretation) God never intended. Always examine the context surrounding the verse you are memorizing or even better memorize larger sections of Scripture, including chapters or even entire books.

Memorizing His Word

Scripture Memory Review Tip

Because of medication, chronic fatigue, and whatever else, my memory has gone down a few notches over the last few years. This is extremely frustrating. When I’m reviewing memorized Scripture, I’m having a hard time with mistakes. I just have to accept this and find ways to deal with it.

One is to just spend more time reviewing. A few years ago I simply doubled my time reviewing.

Lately I decided that whenever I make a major mistake, I’ll meditate on that portion of the passage or verse. This may help me find a “hook”, but more importantly it gets me to meditate on Scripture and think about what that word or series of words that I messed up means to me. (Just kidding about the “to me” part.)

God will show His strength in weakness, cause me to learn to accept where He has me for now, realize I’ll never be anywhere near perfect, appreciate His providence and cause me to use the mind he’s given me to think of ways around these things.

Comments and suggestions welcome.

Short Article on Scripture Memorization

I like what this article says. It offers some things I didn’t cover.

Scripture Memorization at Bible Study Tools
Be careful of popups >:-/

It mentions a woman who used her memorized Scripture to make it through prison camp. In the back of my mind I think I think about how valuable this would be if I was blind or imprisoned. Maybe that’s paranoid.

There is a quote in the article:

What if I offered you one thousand dollars for every verse you could memorize in the next seven days? Do you think your attitude toward Scripture memory and your ability to memorize would improve? Any financial reward would be minimal when compared to the accumulating value of the treasure of God’s Word deposited within your mind.

If God’s instruction is worth more than any amount of money and sweeter than any food (Psalm 19:10), I would think more people would really want to have this “written on the tablet of their heart” (Proverbs 7:2-3). This isn’t to guilt people into memorizing Scripture. It’s just to say that this is the attitude that God is transforming us into having by renewing our mind (Romans 12:2) if we want it. So the result would be to want to memorize it (Proverbs 2:1-6). We may not have it right away and some may always struggle. We need to pray for God’s grace (2 Corinthians 12:9) to change us into wanting these things so bad they’re worth more than anything this world could offer and then as ‘side effect’ wanting to memorize them too.

Getting people to do things out of guilt is exactly the wrong way to go about it. It’s taking God out of the picture, other than wanting to please Him out of guilt, and doing it on our own out of fear. I believe it’s the same thing with being ‘accountable’ to someone. We should be accountable to God first! Use a partner for encouragement and prayer, not guilt. Maybe that’s for another post.

I would also say if one or two verses a week sounds daunting they do two verses a month. 20-25 verses (hopefully some within passages) a year is better than nothing and over a few years you’ll have something substantial and it will hopefully get easier.

Scripture Memorization at Bible Study Tools

Scripture Memory: My Story – Part 2 of 2

Link to Part 1

If I were to give advice I would say that obviously memorizing Scripture is implicitly commanded many places in the Bible. You’ve probably read about them. (If you’re unfamiliar, see the links below.) To hide God’s word in our heart and to meditate on it we at least need to be very familiar with it. Meditating can be formal, concentrated mulling over a passage but it can also be just having it in your mind throughout the day. This is a value of the watch beep method. Every hour you have some Scripture in your head.

In experiencing chronic suffering, I can’t tell you how valuable it is to hang on to certain passages that pertain to various situations I’m in and already have them in my head.

There is no hurry or timetable. If memorizing is very difficult, you can just do one verse a week or even one a month. The Bible is a big book and you’re not going to get much of it memorized in your lifetime anyway. Whatever you memorize will be valuable.

If you have such a hard with it that you just can’t do it, especially if you have major cognitive problems, God isn’t going to be unhappy with you because of it. This is not something to feel guilty about. The main thing is reading or hearing the Bible through audio or whatever way you can. If you had to choose reading or memorizing of course reading would be the most important. But most people don’t have an excuse. It’s written about too much in the Bible and too valuable not to very seriously give it an effort.

If you aren’t able to use any kind of watch beep method or if memorizing a few words at a time throughout the day doesn’t work for you, some people will repeat a verse ten times in a row once or twice a day. This ends up being a dismal failure for me because I just immediately forget it but works for others.

Regularly reviewing what you memorized is imperative. You will forget most of them unless you’re in the minority. Some say if you review for a month you’ll have it forever. Ha. Maybe if you only have four verses memorized. It doesn’t do a lot of good to spend the time memorizing and then forget it.

I also advocate memorizing and reviewing word perfect. No mistakes. You may feel a word or two doesn’t make a difference, but at some point a word can be very important. (Inside joke: just ask John Piper) The more mistakes you let go, the more you’ll make.

Work on your new verse longer than you think you need to. You will make mistakes pretty soon when it gets into the review “pile” after you’ve started a new one. This is normal. That’s why it needs to be reviewed every day for a while until it gets into the every-few-days stack.

I’ll reiterate again–if you memorize single verses, make sure you interpret them in context and don’t quote them out of context! This does more harm than good. I’ve had verses to memorize assigned in Bible studies and they got it totally wrong. Rick Warren is an expert at this.

Don’t use them as a source of pride like I used to. Everybody used to know how much I had memorized and I felt really good about this in a way. On the other hand, I overcompensated and for years I often didn’t even let people know I have Scripture memorized and didn’t quote it much. Sometimes I even looked at my Bible while I was quoting what I had memorized, which is actually deceitful if you really think about it. A friend encouraged me to just quote it as it comes up when it’s useful.

I hope this post was helpful and encouraging. I hope it didn’t sound prideful. I really didn’t know any other way than to just write my story and hope that through it people who have difficulty can see one way how it can be done, how God can help people who aren’t so smart (me) and how valuable it is, especially young people who have the same opportunity I did. If you have difficulty, remember to pray about it.

As an aside, those of us who review Scripture often will go through it faster in our head while reviewing than if we’re speaking. Reviewing Scripture isn’t a time of meditation, it’s an exercise in keeping it memorized. So if someone has Scripture memorized and they rattle it off:

  1. Ask them to please slow down!
  2. Please realize they’re not dispassionate about Scripture. Otherwise they probably wouldn’t memorize it. You know how Scripture says to never judge anyone. (Not really.)

I could go on but this has gone too long for most people’s interwebz attention span. Thanks for reading and please feel free to comment or criticize. I always want to learn.

Also see:

Scripture Memory: My Story – Part 1 of 2

Ever since I started this blog I’ve been trying to figure out how to write a post about Scripture memory, which has been an extremely important part of my life. I’m either afraid of sounding prideful or trying to write advice that others have already given. I’ve posted some quotes and links to what other people have said on the subject to try to be helpful.

For those who regularly memorize Scripture these posts aren’t for you unless you’re interested in reading and letting me know what you think.

What I’ve decided to do is just write about my experience with Scripture memory and let it be and write about some things I would have done differently and hopefully some things that will be helpful for others who have trouble with it.

In college, a person from the Navigators helped me to become saved. I read the book of John and the Holy Spirit entered, opened my eyes, and I came to believe. So I have the world’s most boring testimony. It was through no effort or decision of my own and it was only through believing what Scripture says.

The Navigators are big on Scripture memory and as I became involved with them I went through the Topical Memory System. I eventually used the ‘watch beep’ method where every time my watch beeped on the hour, I would review a few words of whatever my current verse is and acknowledge God while I was at it. (Some of my friends who knew about this would say, “Hi God.”) By reviewing a few words at a time, I was getting to where I was memorizing one verse a day. After memorizing a verse, it would get put in a stack that I reviewed every day. As the amount grew, after a couple of weeks, it would get put in with two stacks that were reviewed every other day and so on.

This to me is obviously a gift from God because I just can’t memorize stuff this way. I had a very hard time in school, eventually dropping out even though I had a music scholarship.

After I was done with the Topical Memory System I memorized every verse and passage that God used to speak to me, that I liked, that I relied on–everything. I can’t tell you how valuable this is to have all that Scripture in my head, ready for the Holy Spirit to use (John 14:26), to know where many things are in the Bible, to have Scripture for almost every subject etc. There are so many valuable uses for this I can’t begin to remember them all.

Then for a while I stopped memorizing and more importantly reviewing. I had everything word perfect and could review everything in my head in order without having to look at anything. If I became blind I would have had this all in my head. After starting again I had to look at them. That was the worst decision I ever made in my life. (The second was switching from hockey to basketball as a kid.)

After a few years I put all the verses and passages in the order that they are in the Bible, in a sense re-memorizing the order and doubled my time reviewing, now using the computer. Now I’m back to being able to go through them in order and have them almost perfect but I make a couple of mistakes each reviewing session. I review Scripture with a cup of coffee and this is a special time each day. I started taking a medication that reduces memory and this is part of the reason why it’s more difficult. This is very frustrating but God knows and it’s humbling which God seems to need to do a lot of with me.

A few years ago I started reviewing longer passages instead of one or two verses at a time. I went along at a pretty good clip, although not as much as in college, and after a year I had to slow way down because I had a hard time keeping them up when reviewing. Which brings me to where I am now a little more than a couple of decades after I started.

A regret I have is only memorizing one or two verses and not really looking at them in context and getting a very good understanding of the verse I was memorizing. In the last few years I’ve rectified this by reading a commentary on nearly every book of the New Testament (plan on finishing next year) and having a much better understanding of each of them in context. I really need to go through the ones in the Old Testament that I haven’t done this with, which isn’t a whole lot at this point.

I now advocate only memorizing passages that are a whole idea. Sometimes a single verse is a whole idea but they usually need context. There are some who advocate only memorizing whole books of the Bible starting with smaller ones. I think this is great. I think an advantage of memorizing smaller passages is you get to know where things are and get a feel for what’s in a paragraph or chapter in various places in the Bible. It’s also good to have something for various topics which is how the Topical Memory System mentioned earlier works.

As time went on I would get so used to the watch beep that I wouldn’t hear it. I think God protected me from that for the first few years. After the computer age, I put an hourly chime on my desktop computer, which I can hear all through the house, and I change the chime whenever I get used to it, and only use those my understanding wife can tolerate.

So that’s my story.

If you’d like some unsolicited advice, more links and more of the story, see Part 2.

Memorize the Gospel

God instructs us in the Psalms to store up His Word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11). I love that picture God wants us to tuck His promises into our heart so that, no matter where we are or what we’re doing, we can pull them out and be strengthened by their truth.

…practice what my friend Mike Bullmore calls ‘strategic Scripture memory.’ Start with passages that define and describe the gospel.

Here is the Scripture that C.J. Mahaney lists:

  • 2 Corinthians 5:21
  • Romans 8:31-34
  • Isaiah 53:3-6
  • Romans 3:23-26
  • Romans 5:6-11
  • 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
  • Galatians 2:21

Scripture Memory – Why Memorize Scripture?

Here is one of the best articles I’ve seen regarding the benefits of memorizing Scripture and why it’s so essential to the Christian life:
Why Memorize Scripture? by John Piper

A related post on this blog:
Knowing Scripture