Archives For Scripture Memory

If you need to be moved from one place emotionally to another: (1) Identify a Psalm that relates to your experience.  (2) Systematically memorize it over a period of time.  (3) As you do so, experience the movement of the Psalm and be transported by the Spirit in conjunction with the Word.

Psalms are poetry.  This means that they are truth to be experienced.  The idea with poetry is not that we simply learn objective truth.  Rather, poetry, particularly in the case of the Word of God,  transports us through an experience.

You might respond, “Well, when I read Psalms, it doesn’t make that much of a difference.”

We cannot experience poetry with a quick read.  Rather, we need to hear the Words – – to reflect on them – – to prayerfully take in delight at pondering the images.  There is no better way to accomplish this than through memorization.


But, how does one go about memorizing?  As I have posted in the past (see these posts), a system is needed.  (This post provides a concise summary of my approach).

Below are two pages from my moleskin that picture how I went about memorizing Psalm 65 this summer.  While you wouldn’t be able to read my writing even if it was larger, you can see that my basic approach was to mediate on the Psalm by saying it over and over again.


If you were to turn to the next page, you would see notes that I made while memorizing the Psalm – – ways that the Psalm moved me.

I appreciated this Psalm initially, but nowhere near the degree to which I savor it now.


Why Psalm 65?

I chose Psalm 65 initially because of verse 6, “The one who established the mountains being girded with might.”  I was staying in the Lauterbrunnen valley (see below) at the time, arguably the most beautiful valley in Europe.  My goal was for the poetry of the Word of God to interpret the beauty for me so that I could move from the place of initial awe to one of worship.

What I discovered by memorizing the Psalm – – was that this is a Psalm about joy and happiness.  Indeed, the place where it moves the prayerful “meditator” is to one of celebration.

One of my favorite things to do in the Lauterbrunnen Valley was watch this cog wheel train wind its way up the side of the mountain.  It was as though I was watching a life-toy train.  What a joy to meditate on the truth that the Triune God established these mountains, being girded with might (Psalm 65:6).


Which is the right Psalm for you to begin memorizing?  There are only 150 to chose from.  So it shouldn’t take that long to identify one.

Why memorize Scripture?

Chris —  May 24, 2010

One of my sabbatical goals is to spend extra time on Scripture memory.  But, it doesn’t take a sabbatical!  Remember . . . it’s just not that hard.  You can memorize Scripture if you follow this approach and give it 10 minutes a day.

John Piper motivates us to memorize the Word:

First, a few testimonies: I have it third hand, that Dr. Howard Hendricks of Dallas Seminary once made the statement (and I paraphrase) that if it were his decision, every student graduating from Dallas Theological Seminary would be required to learn one thousand verses word perfect before they graduated.

Dallas Willard, professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California, wrote, “Bible memorization is absolutely fundamental to spiritual formation. If I had to choose between all the disciplines of the spiritual life, I would choose Bible memorization, because it is a fundamental way of filling our minds with what it needs. This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth. That’s where you need it! How does it get in your mouth? Memorization” (“Spiritual Formation in Christ for the Whole Life and Whole Person” in Vocatio, Vol. 12, no. 2, Spring, 2001, p. 7).

Chuck Swindoll wrote, “I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture. . . . No other single exercise pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and much more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant.

The rest here.


Charles Bridges:

The sudden flash of light leaves no influence.  There is no movement from the heart, till the truth is clearly exhibited to the mind, set strongly and constantly in view, deeply pondered and closely applied.  The Christian Ministry, page 209.

More on Scripture memory.

Meditate with pen in hand

Chris —  January 27, 2010

One of the things we’re encouraging our leaders to do is to write in their Bibles.

  • When you read the day’s chapter of Proverbs, paraphrase the Proverb that gets your attention (See here).  So, today is the 27th.  Read Proverbs 27 with pen in hand!
  • Journal your prayers.  Write out sentence prayers.  Pray with pen in hand.
  • Write out your Scripture memory verses (See here).
  • Write the date at the end of a book of the Bible each time you read it (See here).

Stephen Altrogge has a very helpful post on how to meditate on Scripture.

Meditate With Pen In Hand
I first heard of this from John Piper, who said the following:

“A pastor will not be able to feed his flock rich and challenging insight into God’s word unless he becomes a disciplined thinker. But almost none of us does this by nature. We must train ourselves to do it. And one of the best ways to train ourselves to think about what we read is to read with pen in hand and to write down a train of thought that comes to mind. Without this, we simply cannot sustain a sequence of questions and answers long enough to come to penetrating conclusions”

The practice of writing down my thoughts as I read my Bible has had a transforming effect on my devotional times. Writing forces me to think through each verse, and to trace the logic of each passage. It helps me to fight distraction and to focus all my attention on the words before me. Go out and get yourself a Moleskine Watercolor Notebook Large journal and start writing as you read.

Read more of Stephen Altrogge’s excellent thoughts here.

How will your problems be solved?

Chris —  January 14, 2010

How much are you really praying about the challenges you face in life?

Going through my Scripture memory system today (see these posts), I came across this verse that I started memorizing on September 3, 1993.

So, he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbebel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.”  Zechariah 4:6

I have repeated this verse hundreds of times – – maybe even getting close to a thousand – – but, I still have problems remembering that ultimately my preaching or efforts in any other area of life will not succeed apart from God’s help.

So, consider the biggest struggle you currently face. 

  1. Are you consistently praying about this area?  I recommend that you start a prayer journal in which you journal your prayers.  Also, be sure and pray with other believers.  When was the last time you were on your knees praying with others?  It is not enough to “go it alone.”
  2. Are you memorizing relevant Scripture? God works powerfully through His Word.  When God speaks, the Red Sea parts.  Wear a rut in your mind with the truth of God’s Word and you will be amazed at the results.

Make a point to quote this truth one way or another 3 times in the next 24 hours.  Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit  . . .

Here is a verse to memorize and a pathetic way I remember the reference.  Notice that I am offering extra credit for this assignment.

If there is some area that has a grip on your life (an addiction, pornography, eating, temper problems), then a verse to consider memorizing is 2 Corinthians 10:4:

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:4).

Meditate on the truth of this verse.  If you continue to allow some area to rule your life, then you are like a city with broken down walls (Proverbs 25:28).  Grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18).

Memory Tips

  • Put it on a 3*5 card – – reference on one side, reference and text on the other side.  No more than one verse per card.  Write down the date you begin. 
  • Repeat to remember.  The idea is systematic repetition with a goal of wearing a rut in your mind. Chris Verse Tally  If you say it enough times, you will remember it.  And, if you are struggling with sin in some area, you should be motivated.
  • Associate the reference with something familiar. I started memorizing this verse in June of 1992.  If you are from my generation (the C.B. era), and you remember the horrendously awful song “Convoy,” I had the 45, then the reference will be easy to remember: 10:4.

See also, aloud, and twenty verses from my short term file.

Extra Credit

As I did one year in my room with a record player, listen to the entire song Convoy 100 times so that you too will never forget the phrase, “So, we crashed the gate doing 98, I said let them truckers roll 10:4.”  Your IQ will permanently drop, but you will remember the reference of 2 Corinthians 10:4.

As I continue to repeat, the key to Scripture memory is systematic repetition.

  • You need a system.  Begin by repeating a large number of times over a few days.  Then put it on a 3*5 card for review.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat.  You can memorize anything if you say it enough times.

Today, let me add an additional and important detail.  When you repeat it, you should say it aloud.  In doing so, you will involve more of your senses and the repetition will be more memorable.

Repeating Scripture is aloud is especially helpful if you say it with emphasis and conviction.  The goal is to wear a rut in your memory.

See also this post.

By way of review, here again is a copy of one of my Scripture memory sheets that shows how I keep track of repeating a verse when I am first memorizing it.

Chris Verse Tally

The key to memorizing Scripture is systematic repetition.  If you have a system for repeating verses aloud, then you will remember them. 

Chris Verse TallyHere is what one of my Scripture memory sheets looks like.  I repeat verses 25 times the first day, 20 the second, 15, 10, and 5.  I then put the verse on a 3×5 card and repeat it once daily for a long time. I call this my short term memory file.


Here are 20 verses in my short term system.  I made a few comments.  Even though, I have grouped the verses together when they are the same passage, I only put one verse on a card.

 "Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.(Jon 2:8)."  Read Tim Keller’s new book!  Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters

"For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.(2 Corinthians 1:20)."  If you can’t get fired up about this verse you have “wet wood.”

"And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live (Deuteronomy 30:6)."

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Romans 15:13)."

"For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,(Ro 4:3-5)."  One of the most concise statements of the Gospel.

"The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.(Pr 18:17)."  If you don’t know why I am memorizing this verse, then you have never done pastoral counseling.

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.(2 Co 3:17-18)."  Perhaps, the first verses to memorize on sanctification (being conformed to Christ and growing in him).

"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.(2 Co 5:21)."

" Now when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal family. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the king’s sons who were being put to death, and she put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Thus they hid him from Athaliah, so that he was not put to death. And he remained with her six years, hidden in the house of the Lord, while Athaliah reigned over the land.(2 Ki 11:1-3)."  (Really cool verses.  2 Kings 11:2 is one of the hardest verses I have ever memorized. See this post).

"Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?(1 Co 10:14-16)."  See this post that links, in turn, to other posts.  We must grow in our understanding that communion is central.

" Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”(Mt 16:24-28)."

This morning is Super AWANA Sunday at the Red Brick Church.  The title of the message is, “How to Hide.”  The goal is to explain why Scripture memory is such an important part of our children’s curriculum, and to challenge our people to hide God’s Word in their hearts.

One of the reason we need to know how to hide is because we become like what we worship.  Below is a post repeated from a few months ago that was also a radio spot.

When I was growing up, we didn’t have a broad range of sports in Southeast Iowa. We played football in the fall and basketball in the winter. The rest of the year was baseball.

We loved major league baseball players. Consciously and unconsciously we picked up the habits of our favorite players. Some of us twirled our bats like Willie Stargell. Others turned towards second base before pitching, like Boston Red Sox pitcher Luis Tiant. One of my friends pumped his back elbow when he was at the plate, just like the great Cincinnati Red, Joe Morgan.

Here’s what is interesting. When my friends and I imitated big leaguers we were demonstrating a basic theological principle. We become like what we worship. When fix our eyes on what we love, our hearts are warm and pliable. Consciously and unconsciously we begin to take on the shape of what we revere.

This is what Paul explained in 2 Corinthians 3:18a.

“. . . And we all . . . beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. . . .”

As we look lovingly at Christ, we become like Him.

So, here is what you do. Make the Lord Jesus Christ your hero. Gaze at him intensely. Savor his beauty and loveliness. Hear His Word preached, and soak your minds in Scripture. Warm your heart to the beauty of Jesus and you will be transformed into his image, from one degree of glory to another.

Paul Adams has written an excellent post on why we should memorize Scripture, to which I say, “Amen.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. We live from the inside out. What we think (as well as how we think) matters. What goes into our minds comes out in our lives. This is the main reason I’ve titled my website “Teaching Minds, Changing Hearts,” because it is the content in our minds that drives the change of our hearts. Yes we have moments when we act before we think, but predominantly our thought life dictates the course of action that we take.

Over the years, I’ve memorized hundreds of Bible verses and it’s made a huge difference in my thought life. While the movement from my mind to my life has been slow, I wonder what kind of person I would be if I did not have the knowledge of God’s Word in my life. So, I’d like to say a few things about memorization of Scripture.

Everyone can memorize. It takes no special skill.

Read it all here.


On October 18, I will preach a sermon with the title, “How to Hide.”  The goal will be to stress why we should memorize Scripture and also how you can go about it.  Many people fail to memorize Scripture because they don’t have a system.

One of the first principles for Scripture memory is a matter of repetition.  If you repeat a verse 25 times on one day, 20 times the next, then 15, then 10, then 5 – – you will have repeated that verse 75 times.

Then put the verse on a 3*5 card and review it once a day for a couple of months.  That truth will become a part of your heart.

Below is what one of my Scripture memory worksheets looks like.  Notice there is also a copy of the first verse in my system (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Chris Verse Tally