My Favorite Exercise

If you would have asked me in 2000 what my favorite spiritual discipline would be 16 years later, I would venture the following guesses: solitude and silence or journaling or simplicity or service. These seemed to fit better with my natural personality and interests.

It turns out that my favorite soul-training exercise is scripture memorization and recitation. This surprised me too.

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Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have the entire New Testament memorized or even large chunks memorized but I do have several verses as well as important sections down to memory. But just the act of memorization hasn’t been the only reward, the recitation of these verses has been the transforming element.

If you put me in a tight, awkward, nerve-wracking social spot, you can probably hear me muttering Psalm 23 or the Jesus Prayer. If you see me in better moments of worship, I have probably just recited Galations 2:20 in my head. If I am on a run and need a pick me up, I will start speaking the Lord’s Prayer or Philipians 3:10-11.

I have fended off powerful temptation by speaking the Beatitudes until the temptation fades away. Colossians 3 is a powerful reminder of where my mind, heart, and actions should be focused. I have most of this in my memory.

It is not just scripture I have memorized but powerful statements spoken by the church for the last 2,000 years. Stripped of its denominational baggage, the Apostles Creed tells the story, the gospel, of Jesus, and it has impacted me tremendously.

The best part of the memorization is how these verses and sacred words always seem to bubble up right when I need them to as reminders and markers to who God is and who I am under him.

If you have never given scripture memorization a shot, try one of the following verses. I like to read the verse five times, then write the verse five times, and then take 2-3 words and then see if I can recite them five times. Then the next day, I build off of what I memorized the day before. Give it a shot.

Matthew 9:12-13

Galations 2:20

1 Samuel 16:7

Psalm 46:10

The Essential Need To Change Your Mind

As we pursue doable spiritual formation, one of the first places we start is with our minds.

I used to think that hard work and determination was the only path to change. I used to think that I didn’t need Jesus to be Lord of my life, just a helpful resource in times of need. I used to think that only certain aspects of life could benefit from Christ and his kingdom. But I have changed my thinking.

As much as Christians talk about their feelings and emotions, it is their thinking that is the most important element to a transformed life.

The New Living Translation takes a familiar verse about renewing our mind and phrases it this way:

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Romans 12: 2

Jesus turns the world’s way of thinking upside down. Everything we think is important as feeble humans is turned on its head by Jesus’ life and teaching. Jesus presents a radical way of thinking about the world.

Here are three steps to changing your thinking:

1. Read the Gospels. This is the only way that we can understand how Christ wants us to think.

2. Memorize scripture. Pick a verse such as Galatians 2:20 and put it to memory.

3. Pray for new thinking. What area of your life do you struggle with negative or destructive thinking? Ask God to change your thinking to see this part of your life the way that he does.

Take The Challenge: Results

This past week’s memory verse was Galatians 5:1 – “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

How did you do? Did you follow these steps to memorize it?

Monday: Read the verse five times

Tuesday: Write the verse down on a sheet of paper five times

Wednesday: Read the verse aloud and then close your eyes and repeat it. Do this five times

Thursday: Find a mirror and say your verse in front of a mirror. If you do not have a mirror, do something else physical that helps you remember the verse such as act it out or provide motions to it.

Friday: Try to recite it from memory five times without looking. If you can’t make it five times then do this pattern: read, write, close your eyes, mirror.

Saturday and Sunday: Test your long term memory. Anyone can remember a phone number for five minutes but can you remember it the next day? Use the Weekend to recite it from memory and meditate on the verse.

 

Day 2 Of Our Scripture Memorization Challenge

Remember our challenge to memorize a scripture (Matt. 5:3) a week for the next four weeks? Yesterday we read our verse five times. Today we will write our verse down five times. This doesn’t count. Get your piece of paper and do it.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”