Lesson 3: memorization and meditation
One Little League Baseball game stands out to a young boy. The reason was not due to a baseball action but for the humorous life principle it teaches. An opposing team’s batter hit a ground rule double that bounced over the fence. Two outfielders scampered over the fence to retrieve the ball so the game could continue (the league had a tight budget on baseballs). Both teams waited for them to return… and waited… and waited, but no one appeared. Concerned coaches finally jogged into the outfield and scaled the fence with other curious players following. They found the missing duo just a few feet beyond the fence, gloves dropped on the ground, ball at their feet and blackberry smiles on their faces!
The two players stepped away from the game to pause and enjoy a moment. Sure, it distracted them from the details of the game. But they did it because they were captured by a delightful taste.
Psalm 34:8 “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”
As we continue our series on THE SOURCE, we now turn to how to delight deeper in God’s grace.
Definition & Introduction
Scripture Memorization is a spiritual discipline toward godliness and remembering God’s promises and precepts. Scripture constantly calls us to “remember”, most notably in God’s redemption OT & NT. Even more, spiritual growth and transformation cannot occur without interaction and filling the mind and heart of God’s word. Memorizing not only has spiritual benefits which we will cover, but also physical in that it keeps your mind sharp and increases ability to focus. To those who say they cannot memorize Scripture or that it is childish to memorize the response is simply that you memorize that which is important. Do you memorize names of people, house address, phone #’s, bank accounts, directions to places, sport facts, skill sets, etc.? You get the point.
In early church history, Scripture memory was the norm. Scripture was read in repeating cycles as part of corporate worship and often memorized through hearing, since personal copies were minimal or non-existent. Early pastors and church leaders were required to have multiple portions of Scripture memorized. Today, in places where God’s Word is scarce, memorizing Scripture is a necessity for both faith and practice.
Christian meditation is the focus of heart, spirit, mind and body on God’s person, purposes and precepts. The word itself is an onomatopoetic term, reflecting the sounds of growling, murmuring, sighing or chewing. It brings about the capacity to clearly hear God’s voice and obey (Php 4:8-9). It is not mysterious mind-bending activity or outward body experiences; it simply is the bringing of your whole self before the presence of God. Other religions view meditation is an emptying or detachment of mind and activity, whereas Christian meditation seeks to fill the mind and heart with the fullness of God. Indeed, the Christian life does call for us to empty and detach from sin (this is the biblical and spiritual discipline of confession and repentance). But growth in God is incomplete if pursuit of Him is not included with repentance.
Most of all, a central reference or starting point to keep meditation in proper perspective is the written Word of God. In doing so, it is not a time for in depth study or interpretation. It is a time for reflection and review of what God is saying through a particular passage that is relevant to your life circumstances or recent to previous readings.
Memorization Purpose & Practice
µ To know God. Memorizing Scripture places God at the forefront of your mind and heart. You gain insight into God’s character (person) and way (purposes) that lead you to a life of greater awareness and opportunity.
– Read Psalm 1
µ To shape Godward character. Memorizing Scripture gives gravity to its meaning and has bearing on your life. Jesus said that we do not live by bread alone but by God’s Word (Mat 4:4). The context of this statement is Jesus defeating temptation and the devil. Therefore, having our character to reflect Christ and defeat daily sin occurs when we keep God’s Word in our heart and on our tongue.
– Read Psalms 19:11, 119:1-11
µ To strengthen service to God. Memorizing Scripture aids in your ability to coach, counsel and care for others. God gives each of us opportunities to serve and minister with others and if we are not prepared with the intake of God’s Word then we not only have little to offer someone in way of lasting and effective hope but we also fail to take advantage of God appointed moments to serve Him.
In addition, there is a sense of personal service to God in that memorizing Scripture shapes our own lives for living and decision making. It fuels a Godward perspective in all things.
– Read Proverbs 25:11 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17
– Memorize the gospel and your testimony!
µ To shape Godward perspective. Memorizing Scripture trains us to think, feel, live and act with God at the forefront. Sin and mundane daily life activity has a way of clouding our the perspective of our faith and trust in God working all things together for good. This also leads to the purpose and practice of Christian meditation.
– Read Lamentations 3:17-26
ð Strategy: Understand the purpose for memorizing Scripture and personalize your motivation. Perhaps there is a specific verse/passage that you want to memorize for a specific reason – fighting a sin, learning a concept or truth, how to witness, etc.
– Navigator’s Topical Memory System www.navigators.org
– Memlock (downloadable cards with picture based on topics) www.memlok.com
– SEEDS Family Worship (scripture to song, cd’s) www.seedsfamilyworship.net
– Bible and other topical resources
ð Repetition: Most of us do not have a photographic memory or quick ability to memorize. The greatest key is simply frequency. So, here is my advice:
– Write out the Scripture verse or passage. Yes, it is in your Bible already but writing helps to engrain it in your mind. Does typing it out on the computer help? Perhaps, but writing is typically slower and more methodical for most people; so do which best helps.
– Read it over and over again. And when you think you have read it enough read it a few more times. Become familiar with the overall meaning and flow of the verse/passage. An architect has to know what he or she is building before they can sketch out the details. Summarizing in your own words and understanding the big picture will help to formalize the memorization process.
– As mentioned in previous teachings, reading and saying the verse/passage out loud can be helpful because it involves multiple senses, seeing and hearing. Some people are artistic to draw a picture, link the verse to musical tune or create a project that relates to the verse/passage meaning, to help them memorize.
ð Review: Once you have developed the repetition and memorized the verse/passage you are not finished. In fact, hopefully this does not dishearten you, but you are never quite finished. Our minds naturally are forgetful. Therefore, frequent review is necessary.
– Memorize with a friend(s). Accountability and a little competition can be helpful! (Prov 27:17)
– Journal, Highlighting Bible; John Piper writes “M” beside; etc.
Meditation Purpose & Practice
µ To remember God and His previous work with future power and promise. Ironically, Christian meditation reminds us that we are not alone in this life. Meditation is not about isolation but integration with God.
– The Psalms are most helpful and honest with this point.
- Psalms 1, 4, 8, 46, 62-63, 77, 119, 143:5
– Mary’s example in Luke 2:19 “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
– Jesus’ example: Matthew 4:1; Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 4:42
– Jesus’ teaching: Matthew 6:25-34; Luke 11:1-13, 12:4-7
µ To war against mediocrity, refining and refreshing with God. The world and churches are filled with complacent Christianity. Future generations need a sense of urgency about the things of God. When we take time to meditate on God and Scripture we are filling ourselves with the supernatural. God longs to bless His children and church but is waiting for us to truly long to receive it!
– Early Church fathers spoke of “otium sanctum” (holy leisure). It refers to a life of contentment and peace with God, able to rest and enjoy the beauty of God’s grace and goodness in all of life’s circumstances.
– Hymn writer Frances Havergal, “Take My Life”
“There were ten persons in the house; some were unconverted and long prayed for, some converted but not rejoicing Christians. [God] gave me the prayer, ‘Lord, give me all in this house.’ And He just did. Before I left the house, everyone had got a blessing. The last night of my visit I was too happy to sleep and passed most of the night in renewal of my consecration, and those little couplets formed themselves and chimed in my heart one after another till they finished with “ever only, ALL FOR THEE!”
—> Hymn line “Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise”
– Missionary martyr Jim Elliot, “I think the devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, crowds… Satan is quite aware of the power of silence.” (quoted in Donald Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, p.196)
– Susanna Wesley, mother of John & Charles and others, put apron over her head for time of prayer and devotion to the Lord. It wasn’t ideal, nor did it block out the noise; but it was a symbol to her children that she needed time alone with God.
– Joshua 1:8-9 “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
– Psalm 1
– Psalm 39:3b-4 “as I mused [meditated], the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: ‘O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am.”
– Psalm 46:10a “Be still, and know that I am God.”
– Psalm 119:97-99 “Oh how I love your law. It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.”
– Philippians 4:4-9 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say Rejoice! Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about such things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
ð Meditate about God’s creation (Psalm 8). This is humbling because we are just one person whom God has created in all of eternity. This is assuring because God knows, loves and blesses us with his presence and power.
ð Meditate about God’s answering prayer. This creates a spirit of thankfulness and emboldens faith and future prayer.
ð Meditate on any Scripture to gain insight and meaning to a text. Involve the senses: smell the surroundings, hear the conversations, see the faces, feel the emotions, taste and touch what is before you. The idea is to imagine yourself in that specific setting of Scripture. Enter God’s story as an active participant rather than a passive observer.
Supremely, memorization and meditation counter shallow Christianity. It helps to create depth and power for our faith.
Psalm 1 Challenge: Memorize and meditate on this psalm. Find a friend to do this with who will hold you accountable along with sharing insights together.
Read Psalm 119. Consider what the psalmist is saying throughout this psalm and what God may speak to you concerning your own spiritual growth. Write out or share with someone any applications and commitments you make.
Take a walk. Go to your favorite walking location or find a park, neighborhood, field or woods to walk in. Breathe deeply the surroundings, enjoy moments of prayer to God with whatever He places on your mind and heart. God may speak to you about things ongoing in your life or He may lead you to pray for someone else or even something you see during your walk.
REMEMBER – God’s great redemption is personal and never to be forgotten!
 Story from Max Lucado, Cure for the Common Life: Living in Your Sweet Spot. p.103.