Sunday, June 7, 2009

Principals of Scripture memory

Scripture memory is one of those things that makes me laugh at Christians. First of all, we all know we should do this, but we don't. And strangely enough, we don't consider ourselves to be sinning that we don't (what is that verse in James which says "to him who knows what to do and does not do it, to him it is sin...?). (Either that, or we don't care that we're entrenched in laziness and sin for our lack of spiritual disciplines, maybe that's more it....). Like all sins, it has consequences. I'm not sure what the consequences of not memorizing scripture are, but I do know what some of the rewards for memorization are: a sharper mind, a closer walk with God, a more fruitful life, discernment, a greater understanding of scripture, a proper perspective, to name a few of the more obvious ones.

So maybe the consequences of not memorizing scripture are the lack of these things.

So then, when we decide to memorize scripture, we go about it in such an awkward way. We have all these Christian catch-phrases - things like "Christianity is relationship, not religion". Or, "Christianity is God reaching out to us, not us earning our way to God". Or, "It's about who you know, not what you've done". These are all true and right. Though works have their place and are rewarded in heaven (and on earth, by the way), what distinguishes Christianity is that it's core is about grace -- we don't earn our Eternal Life. It's all grace.

Then we go to memorize scripture. First, We're probably motivated by guilt or by some pastor's motivational speech, not by our honest assessment of the rewards that we will get from this discipline. Things attempted from guilt rarely stick for long. Then second, we forget all the beauty of our Lord and go straight for memorizing commands. Now, yes, all scripture is God breathed and valuable. This of course includes the commands. But in all honesty, it's far more important to understand and love who God is, than to have a grasp on various commands. We aren't motivated by lists of commands. We can't keep them (this was established back in the "we can't earn salvation" bit). And we never will keep them on our own. No, we're motivated by relationship. We need to know a God and be so enthralled with who He is that we want in every way possible to please Him. Then we can delight in realizing that He's even told us exactly how to please Him. What a great God!

(As a digression, this is one of the most beautiful things that I see in most oldest children, they desperately want to please their parents. Almost everything they do, they look for approval and a "wow, that's really neat" from Mom or Dad. They love to spend time with us parents, and they want to grow up to be just like us. Would that be the case if they didn't really know us, but just thought we were a list of rules? Not on your life. Our relationship with God is the same way).

A. W. Tozer, among his many great quotes, says "I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God...." (The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer, Chapter 1. Someday I'll read that book).

I think that quote, besides being brilliant is so very right on the money. If we thought correctly about God, our doctrine would be right, and so would our application of that doctrine.

So, then, I propose that scripture memory should begin with meditating and memorizing those parts of scripture that are directly about who God is, and that lead us to right and noble thoughts of God. It makes sense to me. Does it make sense to you?

Toward this end, I'm beginning to compile sets of verses to memorize - a list for kids, and a list for me (or adults in general). When it gets going, these verses, and my meditations about them will, I hope, be part of my new blog. Because, well, it's fun to start blogs. And I want to make this a continued priority in my life (I've been sort of half-heartedly memorizing scripture about the character of God for a couple of months now, and it is definitely worthwhile).

This blog will continue, of course. I need a place to post funny things my family attempts.


  1. A group of us guys down here worked our way through the Nav's set of memory cards a couple years ago. We got a little burned out and haven't done it for a while though (seemed like we were all traveling at the time too, never around).

    My brain is TERRIBLE at these things, but I still attempt them as a discipline. I just don't remember things verbatim. Hannah, on the other hand, hears something .75 times and has the whole thing memorized.

    If you didn't see on FB, we never actually got to Lincoln this weekend. Taxes there on the properties we were looking at were just too high, and it wouldn't have made any sense to move there to save money on housing :p

  2. My daughter loves earning badges. We found There you can earn badges for learning 10 scriptures.

    I'm excited because not only is she learning them, our whole family is. She's not just reciting them, since the whole family is working on it, we take the time to discuss the meanings and how to apply it.

    We're getting ready for badge 3 already.