“I have hidden my word in your heart, that I might not sin against you”
I have a strained relationship with Scripture memory. The first time I ever memorized Scripture was at church camp, because memorizing Scripture meant candy. Memorizing enough Scripture meant a full-size Snickers bar, the holy grail of candy. So I memorized John 1, Psalm 23, a few others, but not for holy reasons. Once there were no longer Snickers on the line, unsurprisingly my motivation to memorize Scripture died.
Later in life, when I was studying to be a pastor in college, I was told that Christians should memorize Scripture. Jesus, after all, memorized Scripture, which is true and important. At both of the weakest moments of Jesus’ life, He quoted Scripture. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, every response Jesus gave to Satan was quoted from Deuteronomy. He quoted Scripture as His defense against temptation. And when Jesus was hanging on the cross, close to death, He cried out, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” He was quoting Psalm 22.
These are compelling reasons to memorize Scripture, but I must say, they failed to compel me. Scripture memory just became a guilty part of my Christian life. I never did it, so I felt guilty.
Until a few years ago. I am not sure what changed internally in me, to drive me, to motivate me to memorize Scripture, but I know what changed. I had a system.
I came across Timmy Brister’s method of memorizing Scripture – “memory moleskine.” Three key insights changed everything for me as I embarked on a new rhythm of Scripture memory.
First, I always had my notebook in my pocket. It’s small, can be carried around with me, and was a constant reminder to open my notebook and read Scripture. To dwell on it not just for a few moments in the morning, but throughout the day.
Second, Brister encouraged me to read the Scripture out loud. That helped me memorize the words more quickly, but it was also a different way of encountering Scripture. It slowed me down, and opened my eyes to the text in a new way.
Finally, I began to focus on exact words, precise phrases. My devotional life was enriched because reading a passage once will never allow a depth of understanding, or allow the passage to work its way into your heart. A cursory reading of the Bible will always lead to fruit, but Scripture memory leads to a depth of experience with what God is saying to you. It becomes more real. Scripture memory was no longer an activity to be accomplished to get candy or as a religious duty. It was God’s way of dealing with me, speaking to me, encouraging me and leading me.
I won’t pretend that a short blog post is going to make you a Scripture memory master – BUT – as someone who has been at this intentionally for three years now, I have noticed one significant change. The words I speak to myself are different than what they used to be. When I am discouraged, I may still say to myself, “Everything is falling apart!” But another word rises up in my heart: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, He will save the crushed in Spirit.” There is increasingly a different Word at the center of my life now. It is why I memorize Scripture now — without the guilt and without the bribe.
I need those words, so I put them deep in my heart to let God’s Word be the defining voice in my life.