A giant sea of people stands in front of you awaiting your next words. You’ve just found out that you’re all about to die, unless you can think of some way to escape a massive army of multiple nations coming against you. No pressure.
This is what King Jehoshaphat faced when a multi-nation army was on its way to Judah. All of the people now gathered together for encouragement and guidance from their king. What would he do? What would he say?
He started to pray (2 Chronicles 20:6-12):
6 “O Lord God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?…
12 …For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”
A little while ago I took part in an exercise with some other songwriters. We were challenged to write a song about this image. I had never seen so many train tracks in one place. How does someone begin to navigate them? On a more abstract level, how does someone begin to navigate the different paths in life? How do you choose? Or worse – what if you have no choices at all? The phrase “We don’t know, Lord, what to do, but our eyes are on you,” came to me, because it only made sense in that place to pray those words.
The song has really meant something to me recently, as I have been faced with some tough decisions. I’ve dealt with emotions ranging from fear to downright hopelessness. I finally came to a point one day when I had to say to God, “I can’t do this. I’m completely incapable of making these decisions. You’re going to have to help me.”
How freeing it was to say those words. It can be so easy to focus on what you’re facing, and completely forget that you’re not facing it alone. That simple shift in focus can calm fears and bring light into the dark of hopelessness.
Copyright: College Park Church, 2014
Filling in the squares can be extremely rewarding, but the true rewards come over the long haul. So what does Day 1 look like? Well, there are probably about as many ways to memorize as there are people in the world, so I’m going to start simply by telling you my method.
(A note about Bible translations: it may or may not matter which version you use for each scripture you choose. I started out with New King James, and I’ve stuck with it ever since. I’m kind of afraid to branch out…)
Let’s begin with an example verse that I memorized a while back, 1 Thessalonians 5:18:
18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
I like to break the passage up into chunks – short phrases that are easy to repeat and thus easier to memorize:
in everything give thanks
for this is
the will of God
in Christ Jesus for you
The size of the phrases depends only on what you feel comfortable with at first. As you get better at memorizing, you can start out with bigger chunks. So what’s the next step? Repeat a phrase multiple times until you’re confident that you have it memorized. Shouldn’t take very long, should it? You’d be surprised how quickly and easily you forget some words. So, contrary to the thought that repeating the phrase multiple times very quickly will help you remember, I actually recommend reciting it very……slowly. So slowly, in fact, that you can envision each word spelled out in front of you as you say it. For me, that literally means envisioning the page in my Bible. So for most of what I’ve memorized, I could tell you where each verse is physically located on a page in my copy of the scriptures (He’s the King of kings; I’m the Nerd of nerds). Also, for me, I really only need to recite a phrase that slowly once or twice, spending subsequent repetitions thinking about its meaning (this is the meditation part).
And for help with meditation (the word ‘meditate’ actually means to “turn something over in your mind”), there are countless study guides, commentaries, and sermons you could read to supplement your memorization. As much as you can learn about a passage and its context as you review is truly powerful.
I used to start memorizing at the very beginning of a passage (a very good place to start). However, I learned a trick from voice lessons in college – start with the last phrase, gradually moving forward to the first. That way, if you have trouble with any part of it, chances are you can at least end well. And no, I’m not saying that you should literally say the words in reverse order (“…you for Jesus Christ in…” – talk like Yoda you do). Here’s what I mean – each time you become confident with a phrase, continue all the way to the end. For example:
|in……………Christ……………Jesus……………for……………you||(repeat as necessary until confident)|
|the……………………will……………………of……………………God||(repeat as necessary)|
|the will of God…………………………in Christ Jesus for you||(repeat as necessary)|
|for…………………………………this…………………………………is||(repeat as necessary)|
|for this is………the will of God……in Christ Jesus for you||(etc…)|
As I’ve said before, this process requires a lot of patience (longsuffering, in the NKJV [insert smiley face]). But again, it is worth every moment you spend.
And if the method presented here doesn’t fit your learning style, Ann Voskamp has a scripture memory page with some helpful tips, lists, and links. You should check it out either way.
I do hope this has been helpful for you, and pray that God would bless you as you seek to hide his word in your heart.
So, you’ve decided you want to memorize scripture. Congratulations! Get ready to see your brain (and your heart) expanded. The first step is to choose a scripture you want to memorize. It can be one verse or multiple verses – though I don’t recommend any more than 2 to 4 at a time. I’ll talk about different ways to memorize in another post, but for now, let’s look at the sheets.
Once a Day for 7 Weeks
Write the scripture you chose in that first blank. Each box to the right of that line represents one day, grouped in sevens to represent one week. Recite the verse once a day for seven weeks, or 49 days. Fill in a box for each day you recite it, and leave the box blank if you miss that day. You can recite the verse multiple times a day if you want, but still only fill in one box for each day. It can be difficult to get into the habit of reciting every day, but the squares are a great visual representation of your progress. If you’re like me, and I know I am, you’ll be addicted to filling in those boxes in no time (nerd alert).
Once a Week for 7 Months
Once those seven weeks are up, you move that scripture onto the next sheet, and recite it once a week for seven months (technically 28 weeks). Each box on this page represents a week, grouped in fours to represent a month. If you recite the scripture one time or multiple times during that week, fill in the box; if you miss it for some reason, leave the box blank.
Once a Month for 7 Years
At the end of the seven months (28 weeks), move the scripture onto the next sheet, and recite it once a month for seven years (yes, seven whole years). Each box on this page represents a month, grouped in twelves to represent a year. If you recite the scripture one time or multiple times during that month, fill in the box; if you miss it for some reason, leave the box blank – though I’m really hoping that you can find the time over a 30-day period to recite one scripture passage.
Yeah, that probably sounds a little overwhelming, but that’s why you don’t start with a thousand verses all at once – you start with one. It’s a steady, gradual process that takes some time to build up, but it’s so worth the time and effort.
Next post: How to memorize…
One of the greatest gifts I received when I was in college was not my first guitar – it was a sheet of paper with a bunch of little squares on it. I was in a group of about ten guys studying the book of 1 Peter, and Doug, our fearless leader, handed out these sheets because he thought it would be a good idea for us to memorize and meditate on some of the verses we were studying. Scripture memory had always been that nerdy thing I knew I should be doing, but didn’t think it could last because of so many failed attempts in the past. These squares were about to change my life.
Doug explained what they were, and once we understood it, we chose the first scripture. The gist of the memorization method was to recite the scripture once a day for seven weeks and fill in one of those squares each time. Each week we met, we would add another verse, or couple of verses, and keep with this pattern.
But Doug wasn’t finished with the handouts. He gave us another sheet with more squares, only in a different pattern. This sheet was titled “Once a Week for 7 Months.” This is where the “Once a Day” verses went when they fell off the edge of the first sheet. Okay, that’s not a bad idea. You want to try to keep reviewing for as long as possible, I get it.
As long as possible is right – there was one more sheet: “Once a Month for 7 Years.” Doug told us that if we don’t have that verse memorized after seven years, we may need to go see a doctor. For some reason I was up for the challenge, even though none of these guys would be around to see me achieve it.
It took me a while to develop consistency, but something in my heart and mind was changing as those days turned to weeks, and weeks to months. I’d be walking to class, thinking about one of my friends, and scripture would flow right into my thoughts. I’d be having a conversation with a family member, and God’s word would sort of just fall out of my mouth. My prayers for myself and other people were completely different and so much more alive. And it wasn’t like I had to sit there and try to think of what chapter and verse applied to each situation – it was right there with me. He was right there with me.
You see, the word of God is a Person, and as I was getting to know the word of God, I was getting to know GOD.
That first verse went on the sheet on February 16, 1998, and by God’s grace, I’ve added a scripture every week since then. Every part of my life has been affected by that piece of paper with the little squares – my marriage, my music, my daily life – and I’d really love for you to have the same opportunity.
For that reason, I’d like to share this scripture memory and meditation method with you over the next couple of weeks. In my next post, I’ll talk in more detail about the squares, the sheets, and what to do with them. However, I didn’t want to wait until then to give you access to them, so go ahead and download a copy here.
If you’re up for a pretty lengthy challenge, get ready for your life to change…
Before the morning breaks the day
I would venture to guess that no matter who you are, what you believe, you would agree with me when I say that we live in a broken world. Every person makes poor choices that can have devastating consequences. Even when a person makes a great choice, outside, sometimes uncontrollable, forces can negate that choice. As hard as any of us might work to prolong death, death still comes. My personal mistakes and poor choices have led me to walk heavy with guilt, worried about what people would think if they knew these things about me. The end result is life in a tiny bubble of self. I work so hard to take care of myself. There are moments I might open up to take care of some other people, like my family and friends, but even that bubble can be tiny.
But there’s a world outside of me
Over the last ten years or so my vision has been widening outside the bubble. I’m so glad that my life and my mistakes aren’t all that matters. There is so much going on in the world – even so much good – that I’ve been unaware of inside my bubble. I’m waking up.
To Mercy Rising…
Light is breaking like the dawn
Love is singing healing songs