Friday, September 2, 2016

God is my witness

One of my favorite Scripture-memory-related moments near the beginning of memorizing Romans came when I wasn't memorizing or practicing.

I had already memorized part of Romans 1 at least through verse 9, and maybe through his entrance into the Gospel topic. Verse 9 includes, “For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son.”

I remember one day going about my business, thinking about things happening in my life, and at one point thinking the phrase, “with God as my witness,” and found myself immediately and naturally adding onto that, “whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son.” It was so cool and encouraging.

Hiding God's Word in one's heart can be a reminder of whom we serve and why we are here!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Road trip!

No matter the scope of one's Scripture memory efforts, driving or riding in a vehicle is one of the better times to practice what one has learned to have it locked in rock solid.

In writing about how to memorize a verse, I described a reinforcement step that includes “reciting what I have learned out loud three times toward each direction of the compass.” For me, this typically involves four walls in my apartment. The purpose of this is to “break the visual association” in the brain that is formed when memorizing and reciting. Even with the same four walls, though, the scene can become familiar.

Enter driving. The scene is constantly changing. Even if the scene seems the same from a travel standpoint (hundreds of miles of prairie, for instance), for memory reinforcement purposes there is a sufficient amount of visual variation to help break any mental dependencies our minds may form with what is seen for reciting what has been learned.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

How to memorize multiple books of the Bible

It's good to build on the confidence-building success of having memorized a book of the Bible. Pick a new book, prepare the text, and get to work an another one!

The process for a new book is mostly the same as for the first book with one notable exception. The loops and skips challenge is no longer limited to identical and similar phrases used in just one book. This can also happen across books. It's not a new challenge, but its scope has increased.

Biblical authors like Paul tend to uses phrases in multiple letters, and I've found myself jumping from one book to another on accident.

Some examples I've encountered:
I still have work to do on going back through Ephesians and working out these similarities in order to keep from getting myself confused with ColossiansPray for me!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Better than podcast listening!

Podcast listening has risen in popularity. I once heard a podcaster say his audio was four times as popular as his video. In some ways this makes a lot of sense. Listening audio is easy as a passive activity vs. video which requires specific active attention. It's hard to fold put away laundry while watching a video, but it's not hard at all while listening to a sermon.

I have listened to many podcasts and learned a lot. I also don't have a lot to show for them afterwards. The long-term value of listening to a podcast diminishes rather rapidly, even if it's someone giving an excellent exposition of the Word of God.

Contrast this to Bible memory and hiding God's Word in one's heart. The Word does not return void, and that is especially true when one memorizes it and reviews it regularly. The value to me of having God's Word in my heart far surpasses the value of any podcast or episode. I have no fear of missing out (FOMO) when I know the value is far greater.

The great thing about Bible memory, especially review, is that it is generally just as flexible as listening to a podcast, even when speaking out loud. (If one must listen to a podcast with headphones to not disturb others, that circumstance may be the exception, but one can look for other times when that is not a limitation.)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Loops and Skips

As one makes progress through memorizing a long passage of Scripture, sometimes the inspired Word and the translation will have characteristics that present additional challenges for hiding it in a person's heart, particularly repeated lines, phrases, or even similar-sounding phrases.

When coming across a phrase appearing more than once, one of two things can happen. One may recite a phrase that occurs more than once and inadvertently skip over everything from one time it occurs to a later time. Or the reverse: hitting a latter instance of a repeated phrase, and accidentally jumping back to an earlier time it occurred, repeating everything in between again.

This is usually a surprise when it happens because it only can happen when one memorizes something that is the same as or sufficiently similar to something one has already memorized. Also, as often happens with memorizing, one can get to a point of being able to quote it without thinking about it. That usually happens after one has been familiar with quoting a passage for a time (which is good), and that is also when the looping or skipping challenges tend to surface. One can overcome the additional newly presented hurdles and get back to that passive reciting state.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Review while cooking!

If one has ever waited for water to boil while cooking pasta, it can feel like a long time.

Recently I posted Job 41 on my fridge and used the time to learn more verses. Suddenly neither the time for the water to boil nor the time for the pasta to cook seemed like that long. If anything it felt short!

If one starts looking for them, life is filled with opportunities to fill time with review of God's Word that one has hidden in his heart.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Use a voice recorder

When one is memorizing just a verse of Scripture, or even some chapters, it can be relatively simple to tell if one has memorized the text perfectly or not. When one progresses along an extended journey into reciting multiple chapters as part of memorizing a book of the Bible, it can be harder to tell if one is reciting it perfectly, or if one is missing small phrases here and there. (Of course, large phrases or even sections can get missed, too.)

For these longer stretches, I recommend using a voice recorder of some kind. In the old days this meant buying a separate device like a digital voice recorder. (In the really old days this meant something like a tape recorder or a micro-cassette recorder.) These days, one may already have everything needed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Memorizing Speed > Study Speed

A few years ago it was my honor to mentor a member of the high school class of 2010. I had been finishing memorizing Romans while we were studying the book of James together. We decided to follow that study up with Philippians and also both memorize the book together.

The biggest surprise of that was how much faster we were at memorizing the book than studying it. Neither of us expected that, but the math makes sense. We were both memorizing a couple verses a day, but we only met once a week for an hour or so. It turned out to be quite easy for our memorizing to outpace our discussing.

This also greatly enhanced our familiarity with the text we were discussing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Why Romans took me so long

One may have noticed the gap between how long I wrote it would take to memorize Romans at a peak-efficiency rate, and how long it actually took me, as noted in the column to the right on this blog's main desktop page. In terms of progress each day, if I had hidden away an average of two verses per day or half a chapter per week, I would have finished memorizing the 433 verses in Romans in 30-32 weeks—less than a year. (Some chapters are longer and it takes 36 minutes to recite, so maybe 36 weeks would have been a more accurate ideal number.)

Instead, it took me three years from when I started Romans in 2006 to when I finished Romans in 2009. There were two reasons for this: numerical distractions and emotional distractions.

Monday, August 22, 2016

How to Memorize a Book of the Bible

One may think, as I did in some ways, that memorizing a book of the Bible is a huge, gargantuan, massively difficult task. If one learns how to do it, breaking it down into steps, the hardest part becomes simply maintaining the discipline to review what one has learned, and make progress on top of that.

First, choose a translation. Then, start with the first verse. As mentioned previously, memorizing more of a chapter is really a two-step process: (1) memorize another verse, and (2) stitch that together/onto what one has already learned. It just takes some patience and persistence when one hits unexpected bumps along the way. With adding a couple more verses each day, on average, one will have memorized a chapter in a couple weeks.

Memorizing a book of the Bible is no more work each day than memorizing a chapter of the Bible. Yes, this applies to even when one has memorized more than a chapter. This is because an effective stitching process really only needs at most half a chapter for adding on another verse. While I recommend the 3x4 (3 times x 4 directions) reciting practice to get it down solid, it would be neither practical nor necessary to spend 10-15 minutes each of those dozen times reciting as much of the entire book as one has learned.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

How to Memorize a Chapter of the Bible

I can attest that memorizing a chapter of the Bible is not as hard as it sounds. It's not one big mammoth undertaking. The process is actually quite familiar, just spread out over many days.

Start by memorizing the first verse. This step is literally no different than when one is memorizing a standalone Bible verse. How ever much one learns, call it a day.

Every day after that has a few steps:

Thursday, August 18, 2016

How to Memorize a Bible Verse

The journey of memorizing a whole book of the Bible begins with memorizing a single verse, to borrow a phrase. And so begins the journey. After much preparation, now begins the true substance of making progress toward hiding God's Word in his heart.

One may have already memorized a verse of the Bible, so this is going to be mostly introduction for those less familiar the process. Having said that, some veterans of Scripture memory may be surprised at the small number of techniques recommended.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Speak the Words Out Loud, With Expression

When learning and practicing the Scriptures, it is important to do so by speaking the words out loud. While one may find there to be hurdles to doing this, speaking out loud itself helps one to overcome barriers and increase boldness.

The first thing that happens when speaking the Scriptures out loud, is one hears the sound of his own voice. I'm not even talking about hearing a recording of your own voice, but simply your own voice. While speaking is nothing new for most people, the sound of one's voice may be heard in a new way when one hears the words of Scripture, the Word of God, coming from his own mouth.

One of the most important words of all to come from a man's mouth is the name of Jesus Christ. This is true because “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9), and “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Joel 2:32; Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13).

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Commit to Perfection

Once you have committed to a translation you trust, commit to it all the way and memorize it perfectly, exactly as it is translated.

Every word and every letter contributes to the meaning of the text. Any change will alter the meaning of the text. Sometimes a change to one letter of one word can have significant theological implications and even eternal consequences.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Preparing the Text on Paper

This may be one of the more optional steps I describe in memorizing a long portion of Scripture, though for me it has been one of the most helpful and convenient.

By preparing the text, I don't mean changing the inspired words in any way, but rather how they are presented on paper. There are a lot of things Bible publishers include with a translation on a page, that are not inspired. I'm not only talking about headings and commentary notes, but even verse numbers, paragraph and chapter divisions. None of that was included by the original authors. For many these things can be distracting.

If I am memorizing one of Paul's letters, in order to hide the Word in my heart in English as close as possible to how it was originally written, I find it helpful to remove distractions, and to instead find natural connections in the thoughts communicated in the Scriptures.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Very First Step: Choosing a Translation

Before one can memorize anything, one must decide what one is going to memorize. In terms of the Bible, one must first decide on a translation. When memorizing long portions of Scripture, the translation question has more long-term consequences than when just memorizing a few verses, so it is worth time for careful consideration.

There are a lot of translations available today, and it is helpful to know how they are different and what they have in common. In terms of understanding broad categories, there are two basic things to know about Bible translations. One is their source material, and the other is the translation technique used.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

My Introduction to and Inspiration for Memorizing Long Passages of Scripture

There are two men who were the first I had heard of who had memorized long passages of Scripture that were longer than a chapter in length. Both of them had memorized at least the first eight chapters of Romans, if not the entire book.

The first was Dr Lance Latham, the founding pastor of the North Side Gospel Center in Chicago. With his own grounding in the Word, it is not surprising that this church would then found a program like AWANA Clubs, a kids program aimed at reaching kids with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and training them to serve Him. There is a heavy emphasis on Scripture memory, particularly those passages early on that explain the Gospel and how to be saved, because “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

The second was my great-uncle, Dr. Dave Breese, the founder of Christian Destiny. He was a preacher, writer, author, and evangelist who traveled the country and the world for many years. In recent years someone told me they once attended a chapel service in which he spoke, and it really stood out to him years later because he had begun by quoting the first 10 verses of Romans.

I had a similar experience with chapel in college. Dr. Bill Brown was the president of Bryan College when I was a student there, and he was a frequent chapel speaker. One day he quoted 2 Timothy. It was quite the moment. My roommate and I were discussing this later, and he commented that for as much as he knew and had studied 2 Timothy, hearing it in its entirety like that was the first time he had really thought of it as a letter from one person to another.

It sounds daunting, if not impossible! How exactly does one memorize something of such length?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Joy in the Word

There is great joy in having the Word of God in you. It's one thing to know and be familiar with the Word of God. It's another thing to have it in you where no one can take it away from you.