Mind-Full, Mind Change

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There were some nasty viruses circulating this past winter, including one that completely stole my voice for four days. I went to bed feeling fine, and woke up speechless the next day.

I like to think I’m on the low end of the chattiness spectrum, but choosing my words carefully is not the same as waking up mute. I had to jump around and wave my arms to get my husband’s attention, and humbly use pen and paper to communicate the basics. Turns out not that much of what we talk about is vital information. But I missed sharing those funny-weird-interesting moments of my day, and chatting with my pets about their charming idiosyncrasies.

On the fifth day, my voice returned – albeit, a sultrier, lower version— along with a new appreciation for the gift of speech. It also got me thinking about my long silence from this blog.

It’s been more than a long gap since I last posted. I could blame my silence on lots of plausible excuses, but the honest reason is I didn’t think I had much to say. Life’s been moving on, very fast, with the usual mix of dull/exciting/dismal/predictable/familiar/surprising/excruciating moments, but I haven’t felt compelled to write and share much of it – until now.

In the past year, God has brought me to a place of great peace and overflowing joy, regardless of what’s going on in my life at any given time. And He’s done it through a spiritual practice that, quite frankly, doesn’t get much air time.

Even now, when I tell you what it is, I’m afraid many of you will back away and talk yourselves out of seriously considering it.

But please don’t. I’m convinced this practice will transform anyone who commits him/herself to doing it.

And don’t worry: it doesn’t involve fasting –although I’m sure others can testify to the power of that other unpopular spiritual discipline!

Simply and profoundly, the practice that’s perhaps brought about the biggest change in my life since my conversion (almost 37 years ago) is memorizing Scripture; that is, memorizing entire chapters and books from the Bible.

Please don’t walk away.

It’s not as hard as it initially seems, and the rewards are measureless.

If you don’t believe me, let me share these words from Charles Swindoll:

I know of no other single practice in the Christian life more rewarding, practically speaking, than memorizing Scripture…No other single practice pays greater spiritual dividends! Your prayer life will be strengthened. Your witnessing will be sharper and more effective. Your attitudes and outlook will begin to change. Your mind will become alert and observant. Your confidence and assurance will be enhanced. Your faith will be solidified. (Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, {Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1994}, page 61)

Of course, these are promises that apply to doing any kind of Scripture memory work, but in my experience, the benefits exponentially increase when you tackle long passages and embark on memorizing an entire book.

I say this because I’ve memorized lots of Scripture ever since I was a young Christian, but this latest endeavour has been more enriching and life-changing than all the memory work I’ve done before – with the possible exception of memorizing all the Bible studies we learned in our “Acts Class” in 1981, and using them to bring countless individuals to Christ over the following decades. That was certainly time well spent! (And I’ll speak more to that later, too.)

I believe every disciple should memorize the essential verses that make up our various study series. There’s great power in that! But this chapter-and-book memory work also does some very deep work in one’s heart and soul that I want everyone to experience. So I want to walk you through my own journey so far – how I got started, what’s worked best in terms of methods, what’s kept me going over the months since I started, and why I think memorizing lengthy Scripture passages is both underrated and over-feared among Christians.

Let me start with my own list of benefits, in no particular order.

  1. First of all, I believe the best way to meditate on God’s word (as we are instructed to do) is to have it stored up in your heart, not only in the form of random favourite verses, but flowing through your mind in the context it was written.
  2. As you review and ponder memorized chapters and books, your mind will make amazing connections between words and concepts, taking you deeper in spiritual insight.
  3. I think the best way to obey Phil 4:8 – to think about what is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy – is to be inwardly reciting and pondering memorized blocks of Scripture as you go about your day.
  4. When we meditate on God’s Word day and night, God promises prosperity, fruitfulness, understanding, insight, wisdom, protection, victory… and what more could we want? (Josh. 1:8; Ps. 1; Ps. 119: 27,99,148; Deut. 11:18ff; Ps. 19:7 – 11; Prov. 2: 1-6)
  5. Believe it or not, your brain’s ability to memorize will exponentially increase, and the fears you have about your brain deteriorating as you age will diminish. Thus, you’ll feel younger and more mentally alive than ever.
  6. You will be ever sharing the mind of Christ – !!!
  7. You will find the practice to be calming and centering, the perfect antidote to anxiety, insomnia, boredom, and fretting. Your spirits will be lifted within minutes, and your mind will grow to relish both learning and reviewing the Scriptures you’ve chosen.
  8. Mundane activities like driving, cleaning, unloading the dishwasher etc. can be (eternally) redeemed by practising your memory work alongside. Waiting for an appointment? So much better than silly games on your phone – or endless Facebook.
  9. You’ll discover hidden treasures when you memorize verses you’d previously overlooked or skimmed over—and learn anew how we live by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Make room for many more “favorite verses”!
  10. The Word of Christ will dwell in you richly, so that you can teach, admonish and encourage others with greater love and power than ever before.
  11. You will fall in love with the Word of God as you did in the early days, but this time with far greater maturity, wisdom, and knowledge.
  12. God will cover you with his peace: “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you…” (Isa. 26:3, NKJV) How great a promise for each of us in this age of staggering political, social, and personal anxiety!

Sneak preview: So far, I’ve memorized all of Colossians and 1 Peter, the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians, and I’m just finishing the book of Hebrews (eight more verses).

Next week I’ll share more on getting started and overcoming the barriers our selfish/lazy/skeptical/excuse-making brains set up against this disregarded spiritual powerhouse.

Meanwhile, please start thinking about which book you’d like to tackle first. (I’m eliminating Philemon and 2nd and 3rd John for you, but if you feel you must start small, start there!)

Not convinced yet? Pray about it and see if God is nudging you – and check in with me next week!

 

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