Yes, you read that title right. I’m not memorizing scripture this year and maybe you shouldn’t either.
Memorizing scripture is a good and helpful spiritual discipline but for many it isn’t producing the spiritual fruit they had hoped. So before you call me a heretic, let me explain why I’m not memorizing scripture this year, and what I am doing instead.
Why I’m not Memorizing Scripture this Year
I grew up (and still live) in the deep south Bible belt. I went to Awana’s my entire childhood and have the scripture memorization trophies to prove it.
If your childhood was anything like mine, you’ve spent a good portion of your life memorizing scripture and reading it over and over. Which are good things.
But what do you do when you hit your mid-twenties or older and struggle to really read scripture because your brain is too familiar with it? You already know every verse, you already know all the stories, you even remember silly songs to help you remember all the verses and all the stories.
How do you make scripture fresh again?
Memorization is a great way to hide the word in our hearts, but it does make it difficult to let that word continue to sink deep and change us when it is too familiar.
There’s a silent but potent trend in the church of letting the trinity become Father, Son, and Holy Bible instead of Holy Spirit.
There’s nothing wrong with memorizing scripture, but when we place rote memorization and knowledge above relationship with the Holy Spirit and letting Him guide us, we’ve missed the point of reading scripture.
The Word (that became flesh) is living and active because of the Holy Spirit. We can’t properly understand scripture without Him. When we read the Bible, the goal should never be to finish, to check a box off on a list, to add another memory verse to our collection.
The goal should always be to let our hearts align more and more with the heart of Jesus. Studying scripture isn’t an academic exercise; it’s a relational experience intended to be done in relationship with the Holy Spirit.
So this year, I put away the 3×5 cards, the post-its, and the read-it-in-a-year study Bible. I put away the daily devotionals I love. And I gave myself permission to not memorize scripture this year.
What I’m doing Instead
The Passion Translation
I’m switching up my Bible translations this year and reading from The Passion Translation. As much as I love the NASB, HCSB, and others, I find myself skimming and not really reading when the language is too familiar.
The Passion Translation is a great option because it feels fresh, but still is a literal translation like the NASB and preserves the cultural meanings of certain phrases.
I also love the layout of The Passion Translation and how it reads more like a regular book than a Bible. Something about the full page widths and full thickness paper helps me read in a different way. The Passion Translation is available on Bible Gateway and the YouVersion Bible App.
It is still in the translation process, but all of the New Testament and some of the Old Testament books of poetry and prophecy have been translated and are available now. You can buy the Passion Translation New Testament or the individual books.
The Voice is another great translation for fresh language backed up by solid translation methods and consideration of cultural meanings. One of the unique features of The Voice is that uses more of a screenplay layout in its formatting.
The speaker is highlighted more in the formatting and God as the great narrator telling His story is made more prominent. The Voice is on Bible Gateway as well as widely available in print.
Another widely available version is The Message. While definitely tending more towards paraphrase in its translation, The Message does provide a fresh approach to scripture that may help you hear things deeply for the first time in awhile.
Because The Message does differ in language so much from the NASB, ESV, NIV, etc, I do recommend having a more standard translation on hand for reference when reading. The Message can be found on Bible Gateway as well as the YouVersion Bible app.
The Tree of Life Version
This version restores many of the Hebrew words and names that were originally in the text and brings a Messianic Jewish focus to the roots of Christianity.
Because I spent a few years involved with Messianic congregations this version still reads too familiar to me sometimes, but for most it will bring a fresh view of scripture that will encourage you towards deeper understanding. It is available in print, on Bible Gateway, and on the YouVersion Bible app.
The Psalms speak over and over about meditating on the words of the Lord (especially Psalm 119).
Often times this is understood to mean memorizing scripture, but another way of meditating on the word of the Lord is to actually meditate on it. Meditation is different than memorization.
With memorization the goal is to repeat the words or use memory devices to help you be able to recite it without any aids. The objective is quantity of material memorized.
With meditation the goal is to repeat the words and dwell on them. To continually consider them and seek to understand them. To declare them over yourself until they actually feel true. To let the Holy Spirit bring the words alive in you and teach you their meaning.
The objective is the quality of revelation and change the words bring in you.
Memorization is about head knowledge; meditation is about heart knowledge. And yes, you probably will end up memorizing scripture the more you meditate on it. But memorization is not the goal.
I love what both these articles have to say about how to meditate on scripture:
How to Meditate on God’s Word
The Power of Meditation: Encountering God Through Scripture
I hear scripture differently when I’m not reading it. We know from research on learning styles that many of us actually learn better when we hear something than when we read it.
One of my favorite tools for listening to scripture is the Bible.is app. This free app lets you listen to the Bible in several different translations on your smart phone or from your desktop.
I love listening to the dramatized versions because instead of just an audio book, it sounds more like a radio drama (raised on Adventures in Odyssey, love me some radio dramas).
Another great part of listening rather than reading is it takes away the “I don’t have time” excuse many of us wrestle with when we try to spend more time in scripture. You can listen while you drive, while you do dishes, while you work out, you get the idea.
However you choose to spend time in scripture this year, remember the goal is to get the word in you, not to just get you in the word.