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7 Tips on Scripture Memorization

GSITSOL Swindoll

I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking than memorizing Scripture. That’s right. No other single discipline is more useful and rewarding than this. No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and more effective. Your counseling will be in demand. 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.

God’s Word is filled with exhortations to implant His truth in our hearts. David says that a young man can keep his way pure by treasuring God’s Word in his heart.

Psalm 37:31, “The law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.”

Psalm 119:9-11, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”

Solomon refers to this in Proverbs 4:4, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.”

The words “hold fast” come from a single Hebrew term, meaning “to grasp, seize, lay hold of.” Scripture memory gives you a firm grasp of the Word—and allows the Word to get a firm grasp of you! Solomon also mentions writing the Word “on the tablet of your heart” and having Scriptures kept within you so “they may be on your lips” (Proverbs 7:3 & 22:18).

Now, I know you’ve been challenged to do this before. But is it happening? Perhaps you have procrastinated because you have mental blocks against it. Maybe you tried, but you either did not see the value or could not get beyond the method that was demanded by some memory program—little cards, booklets, check-up techniques, hearers, etc. Perhaps that seemed elementary and insulted your intelligence, I understand.

Okay…forget the methods…but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Take your Bible, turn to a passage that’s been especially helpful…and commit that passage to memory—all on your own. Don’t learn just isolated verses here and there. Bite off whole chunks of Scripture. That way you can get the flow of thought God had in mind.

Here are seven things I have found helpful:

(1)  Choose a time when your mind is free from outside distractions…perhaps soon after getting up in the morning.

(2)  Learn the reference by repeating it every time you say the verse(s). Numbers are more difficult to remember than words.

(3)  Read each verse through several times—both whisper and aloud. Hearing yourself say the words help cement them into your mind.

(4)  Break the passage into its natural phrases. Learn the reference and then the first phrase. Then repeat the reference and first phrase as you go to the second phrase. Continue adding phrases one by one.

(5)  Learn a little bit perfectly rather than a great deal poorly. Do not go on to the next verse until you can say the previous one(s) perfectly, without a glance at your Bible.

(6)  Review the verse(s) immediately after you have gone through this process. Twenty to thirty minutes later, repeat what you’ve memorized. Before the day has ended has ended, firmly fix the verse(s) in your mind by going over it fifteen to twenty times. (You can do this as you drive or do your job.)

(7)  Use the verse(s) orally as soon as possible. After all, the purpose of Scripture memory is a practical one, not academic. Use the verses in conversation, in correspondence, in teaching, in counseling, in everyday opportunities. Relate what you’ve learned to your daily situation. You’ll be thrilled with the results.

*Article above adapted from Charles R. Swindoll. Growing Strong In The Seasons of Life. Portland, OR.: Multnomah Books, 1983, pp. 53-54.

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About The Author:

Charles R. Swindoll has devoted his life to the clear, practical teaching and application of God’s Word and His grace. A pastor at heart, Chuck has served as senior pastor to congregations in Texas, Massachusetts, and California. Since 1998, he has served as the senior pastor-teacher of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, but Chuck’s listening audience extends far beyond a local church body. As a leading program in Christian broadcasting since 1979, Insight for Living airs in major Christian radio markets around the world, reaching people groups in languages they can understand. Chuck’s extensive writing ministry has also served the body of Christ worldwide and his leadership as president and now chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary has helped prepare and equip a new generation for ministry. Chuck and Cynthia, his partner in life and ministry, have four grown children and ten grandchildren.

Chuck’s prolific writing ministry has blessed the body of Christ for over thirty years. Beginning with You and Your Child in 1977, Chuck has contributed more than seventy titles to a worldwide reading audience. His most popular books in the Christian Bookseller’s Association include: Strengthening Your Grip, Improving Your ServeDropping Your GuardLiving on the Ragged EdgeLiving Above the Level of MediocrityThe Grace AwakeningSimple FaithLaugh AgainThe Finishing TouchIntimacy with the AlmightySuddenly One MorningThe Mystery of God’s WillWisdom for the WayThe Darkness and the DawnA Life Well Lived, and the Great Lives from God’s Word series, which includes JosephDavidEstherMosesElijahPaulJobJesus: The Greatest Life of All, and his most recent addition, The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal. As a writer, Chuck has received the following awards: Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement Award, Evangelical Press Association, 1997 and Twelve Gold Medallion Awards.

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Learning Scripture Memory From One Who Mastered The Bible: Dr. John G. Mitchell

I had the privilege of attending Multnomah University (was Multnomah School of the Bible) from 1985-1988. I went there at the recommendation of Luis Palau and was drawn by their motto, “If it’s Bible you want, then you want Multnomah.” One of the highlights for me as a student at Multnomah was taking classes like “Spiritual Life,” and “Acts and Romans” from an old Scottish preacher (and the founder of the school) by the name of Dr. John G. Mitchell. I had never been around a man that was so in love with Jesus, and that loved the Bible like him. I was glad to see the article below by a fellow Multnomah and Talbot alumnus on memorizing Scripture based on advice from Dr. Mitchell. I had the same conversation with Dr. Mitchell that Dr. Berding had as a student. I don’t know that there is any greater need of the moment than the two things that Dr. Mitchell stood for and modeled: a love for Jesus and for his Word. I hope that you will join me in heeding these words of wisdom by one of the greatest men of God who ever walked on this planet (and that’s no exaggeration whatsoever). He was great because he was humbled and awed by the greatness of His God – and he lived to tell others of His Majesty. Dr. Mitchell was very special to me because he not only mastered the Bible, but more importantly, the Bible for God’s glory mastered him. Dr. Berding gives a very helpful strategy for memorizing Scripture based on principles gleaned from Dr. Mitchell in this excellent article. (Dr. Mitchell pictured above). – Dr. David P. Craig

 “The Easiest Way to Memorize the Bible”

One of my professors in college was really old. I can hear everyone asking: “How old was he?” (No, his social security number wasn’t 7 …) Let’s put it this way: he was the founder of the college at which I was studying (Multnomah in Portland, Ore.), and the school was celebrating the half-century mark of its founding while I was there! In fact, Dr. John Mitchell was over the age of 90 when he taught the two classes I took from him. He continued to teach well into his mid-90’s.

Not surprisingly, he was getting forgetful about some things by the time I had him as a teacher, but what he definitely was not forgetting were the Bible verses he had memorized. His ability to recall Bible verses was astounding. I do not know this for a fact, but I would guess that he had all of the New Testament and large sections of the Old Testament committed to memory. All of his students were profoundly impacted by his immersion in the Scriptures.

I only had one opportunity to sit and talk with him while I was a student. I had a single question to ask him that day: “How did you come to memorize so much of the Bible?” he answered, “Well, I never really tried to memorize.” (Oh no, I thought, this isn’t going to be very helpful …) “But before I prepare to preach a series of sermons on a book of the Bible, I first read it aloud *50 times before preaching it.” (OK, this might be helpful.) “Since I preached a lot in my younger years,” (now that is an understatement; read his biography! [Dick Bohrer. Lion of God: A biography of John G. Mitchell, D.D. Portland, OR: Multnomah Bible College, 1994], book cover and Dr. Mitchell pictured on left). “I had lots of opportunities to read passages over and over again.”

Dr. Mitchell’s comments that day were a helpful turning point for me in my own commitment to memorize the Scriptures. I had already tackled some large chunks of the Bible and committed them to memory, but the process of getting there had been rather painful. Rote memory (“look at the verse, cover it with your hand, look into the air and try to quote it by memory, uncover the verse with your hand to see what you missed, fix whatever mistakes you made, try again”) was hard work, and the results were not always satisfying from a long-term, remember-what-you-memorized standpoint.

After that single conversation with Dr. Mitchell, I changed tactics. From then on, before traveling down the “rote road,” I would read the passage I wanted to memorize 50 times out loud with great emphasis. Then – and only then – I would try the rote method.

I learned three things by doing it this way:

(1) I discovered that I had already memorized most of the passage I was trying to learn  before I ever really started to try to memorize it.

(2) I found out that the process of reading a passage over and over again in-and-of itself became a wonderful means of God working his grace in my life. I wasn’t just learning words, I was thinking about where the passage was going. God used it to help me understand the passage better, to think about its implications in my life, and to impact my actions and affections.

(3) I discovered that this process helped immensely in holding in my long-term memory the passages I had memorized. It is a far better process for retention. So, why don’t you try it yourself? Here is a summary of the process.

STEP 1: Begin by selecting a passage of Scripture that takes approximately 15 minutes to read out loud. Here is a short list of New Testament passages that would fall into this category that also would probably yield you a lot of personal spiritual fruit: Matthew 5-7; John 14-17; Romans 6-8; Philippians (all); Colossians (all); 2 Timothy (all); Hebrews 11-13; James (all); 1 Peter (all); 1 John (though this one is tough because of how cyclical it is).

STEP 2: Read your passage through once or twice a day aloud. Keep track of how how many times you have read it through.

STEP 3: Once you have read it aloud 50 times, then try to rote memorize it. Keep working on it faithfully until you can get through the entire passage by memory.

STEP 4: Quote through it at least 25 times without looking to fix it in your memory. An additional step you can take that would ease the process would be to read your passage onto a digital recorder and listen to it whenever you can as you drive, walk, cook or wait for something. Your own recorded voice will work a little better than someone else’s voice, since it will match the intonation of your daily oral readings, but you can use a prerecorded section if you prefer.

I’ll close with this thought: If you started today, red aloud through Philippians once a day for 50 days, spent the following 15 days doing the rote-memory thing, reviewed for another 25 days, you could have all of Philippians memorized in three or four months by only spending a relatively painless 15 minutes a day doing it. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

This column [adapted] above was first published in thegoodbookblog.com on January 28, 2012 & again in the Biola University Magazine, Spring Edition 2012, 39.

About the Author: Ken Berding is a professor of New Testament at Talbot School of Theology and the author of several books, most recently Walking in the Spirit (Crossway, 2011). He holds an M.A from Talbot, and a Ph.D. in hermeneutical and biblical interpretation from Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia.

*Note: Dr. Mitchell told me when I was at Multnomah that he learned this from the great preacher from Westminster Chapel in London – G. Campbell Morgan – the great preacher that preceded and handpicked Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones [DPC])

 

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Book Review: “How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens” by Michael Williams

How All The Books of The Bible Point to Jesus

I have been waiting for a book like this to be written for a long time. In 1999 in a Doctor of Ministry course at Westminster Theological Seminary I was convicted and convinced that all Bible study, teaching, counseling, discipleship, and preaching must be done with Christ at the center of it all, if it’s to be deemed “Christian.” Jesus Himself said, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them the things concerning himself” in Luke 24:27 on the road to Emmaus. Ever since that time I have sought to read resources that would help me understand and interpret the Scriptures in light of the fact that all of the Scriptures – according to Jesus – are about Him. Yet, the mind-blowing thing to me is how few preachers and Bible teachers ever even get to Christ – unless he is a “tag on” at the end of a lesson or sermon (if that).

I am really excited about this book. Michael Williams has written an easy to read guide that is focused on how to read the Scriptures with a focus on Jesus. In 62 short chapters (about 4-6 pages per chapter) Williams covers the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. In each chapter there is an introduction to all the Scriptures showing the historical redemptive development that leads us to Jesus. He then gives a short theme for each book. Each chapter has a Scripture memory passage, followed by “the Jesus lens” section, and then contemporary implications from the book discussed, and “hook questions.”

The back of the book has a helpful series of charts containing five sections of each book of the Bible with a title for each book, the theme, the Christ-focus of the book, the implications, and the key questions that “hook” you. I am going to make it one of my goals to memorize the charts, along with the memory verses for each book of the Bible by putting them on flash cards. I will be consulting this book regularly and can already say with almost absolute certainty that this will be in my top ten for 2012 (of the 150 books I will read and review this year).

Thank you Michael Williams for your gift to everyone who has been waiting for a book like this: a book that answers what the key theme of each book of the Bible is; a book that shows how all of the Scriptures point to Jesus; and a book that gives us the practical implications of Jesus at the center of the Bible and our very lives. I hope that this book will launch a plethora of books in this genre that help lovers of Christ see Him more clearly, love Him more dearly, and passionately worship and declare Him so much more from the Scriptures than is currently practiced.

*Michael James Williams in his own words: “After my conversion in the U. S. Navy (in a submarine beneath the North Atlantic!), I entered Columbia Bible College, where I received a B.A. (1985). This was followed by an M.A. in Religion at Westminster Theological Seminary (1987) and a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies at the University of Pennsylvania (1999). In 2000, I was ordained in the Christian Reformed Church, and since 1995 have been teaching at Calvin Theological Seminary. I have also taught courses at Westminster Theological Seminary, the University of Pennsylvania, and brief stints in Limuru, Kenya; Donetsk, Ukraine; and Warsaw, Poland. In addition to articles on Old Testament topics in various reference works and academic journals, and contributing to and editing “Mishneh Todah: Studies in Deuteronomy and Its Cultural Environment in Honor of Jeffrey H. Tigay” (2009); I have authored “Deception in Genesis: A Comprehensive Analysis of a Unique Biblical Phenomenon” (2001); “The Prophet and His Message: Reading Old Testament Prophecy Today” (2003); and, most recently, “How to Read the Bible through the Jesus Lens: A Guide to Christ-Focused Reading of Scripture” (2012). My amazing wife, Dawn, and I enjoy hiking and all things outdoors.”

 

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