Revive Our Hearts Radio

You Can Memorize More Than You Think

Leslie Basham: Janet Pope has memorized 14 books of the Bible and 121 chapters, yet she doesn’t claim to have a great memory.

Janet Pope: When it came to helping with homework, honestly, I could never remember any history, any English, any math, anything. So why have I been so successful at memorizing Scripture?

It’s because I have a higher goal than just to memorize the Bible. That’s not my goal. My goal is to know God and to walk closely with Him.

Leslie: You’re listening to Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, June 15.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, we’re joined this week on Revive Our Hearts by Janet Pope, who is a wife. She’s a mom. She’s a seminary student right now. She loves studying God’s Word. She has taught God’s Word for many years.

She just loves God’s Word, and I think you’re going to love God’s Word even more after you get to hear this dynamic little woman. She’s actually one of the few people I know who is maybe even a little shorter than I am. She’s a tiny, petite thing, but she has a heart that is very full of God’s Word.

Janet, thank you so much for joining us again here on Revive Our Hearts.

Janet: Thank you so much.

Nancy: We’re not in our normal setting for recording. We’re in the borrowed studios of our station partner KVTT in Dallas, Texas, where you live. So grateful to our friends at KVTT for not only being partners with us on Revive Our Hearts, but also making it possible for us to have this conversation this week.

Janet, you’ve written a book called His Word in My Heart. It’s really just your life message about how you got started memorizing Scripture, and not just memorizing isolated verses but memorizing whole chunks of Scripture—chapters and books of God’s Word.

For those who didn’t hear your story on the last program, just give us in a nutshell what got you started memorizing Scripture, and what started you on a path that has really made a difference in your life.

Janet: I started actually at a Christian conference. I was there with some friends. Someone came to the teaching platform, just spontaneously, someone saw her and said, “Oh, why don’t you come up here and share some Scripture with the group.” So she recited from memory the entire book of Colossians.

So that was my inspiration. I thought, “Wow, I wish I knew God’s Word!” So as I drove home six hours in the car, I cried out to God and said, “God, help me make a change in my life. I really don’t know Your Word, and I want to.”

Because she was memorizing passages, I thought, “Okay, I’ll start with the book of Ephesians, and with God’s help somehow, some way that will be my first project.”

Nancy: And that was how many years ago?

Janet: Seventeen.

Nancy: Do you know how many chapters or books you’ve memorized since then?

Janet: At this point I’ve done 14 books and 121 chapters.

Nancy: Fourteen books of the Bible. What are some of those books that you’ve hidden in your heart?

Janet: I’ve done Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Timothy, Titus, Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1 John, Revelation, Esther, and Ruth.

Nancy: You just rattled those off! I don’t know if it was 14, but it was a lot, and some of those are not short books—Hebrews, Revelation . . .

Janet: Well, Revelation actually took me two and a half years.

Nancy: I loved it when I heard that, because a couple years ago, my goal for my fiftieth birthday was to memorize the book of Revelation that year, and I did. It has been so, so rich in my life. I’m still working on getting it to where it’s really comfortable. But you took your time with it.

Janet: Two and a half years. Well, a lot of people are intimidated by large passages because they think that will be more difficult than a short passage, but it’s just like running a marathon or walking around the block. You just do it one step at a time. So memorizing something really long isn’t more difficult, it just takes longer.

When I did Revelation, I had already done several other books, so I thought, “Well, it’s 22 chapters, but I’ve already done way more than 22 all together.”

Nancy: Four hundred four verses.

Janet: So there you go. It’s just a perseverance thing, actually.

Nancy: But you probably wouldn’t recommend somebody start with Revelation.

Janet: No, I wouldn’t recommend it. I recommend starting with Psalm 1. It’s six verses.

Nancy: Actually, in this book, His Word in My Heart, you walk the reader through memorizing Psalm 1, and then also the book of Titus.

Janet: Yes.

Nancy: Three chapters. So it’s longer than a lot of people have ever memorized, but it’s not really, really long.

Janet: No, but I’ll tell you, many people are intimidated by the thought of memorizing a long passage because they do think that it’s going to be more time consuming or more difficult than memorizing scattered verses—a verse here and a verse there.

But I love to tell the story about this man in my church. One day he came up to me and said, “I just want you to know that I’m going to memorize the book of Philippians this year.” He said, “I’ve counted it. There are 104 verses, and there are 52 weeks in a year; that’s only two verses a week, and I think I can do that.”

I thought, wow—I’d never counted it up. I never really did the math. So I thought, wow, how awesome! Now, if this man accomplished his goal, and I hope he did, he would be so motivated that the next year he’d say, “Well, I could do another book.”

And there are many books that are approximately the same number of verses. James has 105. 1 Peter has 105. Second Timothy has fewer. First Thessalonians has fewer. So at the same pace of two verses a week, you could have one book the first year, two books in two years. Five years, five books; ten years, ten books.

Now, I’ve done 14 books in 17 years. So, see, some people might even say, “She’s a slacker.” Two verses a week. It doesn’t seem possible, but you can get out your calculator and figure it out.

So I like to share that illustration, because that’s not my method, but that was his. And if you break it down to two verses a week, anyone could do that. So it’s not more difficult.

Plus, I like to tell people that the thing I like about memorizing passages is, you don’t have to stop and name your reference. When I memorize passages, I do write it out on a 3x5 spiral, and I always write the number there because I like to know where I am, but I never memorize the references. So that’s made it so much easier for me.

It’s just like learning a song. You start at the beginning, and then you add a little more. Add a little more. So that’s what I’ve found.

A lot of people said the difficulty they have in memorizing Scripture is they can’t remember the references. So I say, well, do a passage like doing an entire song. You don’t have to stop and say, well, that was verse 1, that was verse 2, that was verse 3. Just do the whole song.

Nancy: Now, I know some people are listening to this and thinking that you just memorize easily. Or you must be a straight-A student.

Janet: Well, I’ve had so many people say, “You probably have a photographic memory.” But honestly, if my children were here, who are now grown, they would tell you that I’m not the sharpest pencil in the drawer, and that when it came to helping with homework, honestly, I could never remember any history, any English, any math, anything.

So why have I been so successful at memorizing Scripture? It’s because I have a higher goal than just to memorize the Bible. That’s not my goal. My goal is to know God and to walk closely with Him.

But memorizing Scripture got easier the more I did it. So now I would consider myself a good memorizer, but I never was before.

Nancy: The fact is, we all have things memorized. It’s just a matter of what we’ve memorized. I mean, any of us can quote the Pledge of Allegiance, and how do we know that? Because we’ve said it over and over again.

Janet: And that is the secret: to review. People say, “How do you keep it in your mind and not forget?”

So I give that same example of the Pledge of Allegiance. If you said it for 12 years, 5 days a week, you’re not ever going to forget it. The same with Scripture memory.

After you finish . . . let’s say you memorize Psalm 1, and then you go on to Psalm 121. But you don’t want to forget Psalm 1, because you spent days working on that. So I say, pick one day of the week—let’s say Monday. Every Monday, no matter what else you go on to memorize, you will always review Psalm 1 on Monday.

So at the end of the year, not only did you spend a week or two working on it to memorize it, you’ve reviewed it at least 52 times. Now you’re moving it from short-term memory to long-term memory.

It’s the same if you need to learn a new phone number or you need to learn your new combination lock or whatever you need to learn. You just tell your brain, “This is important. This is important.”

So that’s what I do. Then, when you go on to the next passage, you pick a different day. Now Tuesday. Every Tuesday, I’m going to review this. So it doesn’t get complicated until you have more than seven passages, and then you can just put them in order. That’s the way I do it.

Nancy: So start us out. We want to memorize Psalm 1 or Psalm 121. Those are not very long. How would you do it?

Janet: I would write out what you want to memorize. If you were going to do a whole book, then just write out the first chapter. But if you’re going to do Psalm 1, then just write out those six verses.

I write them on the 3x5 cards that have a spiral attached, so I can take this little spiral with me everywhere, and it sits up on my counter. That’s what I like about it.

However, some people don’t like to do it that way. They go to the copy machine. Put their Bible on the copy machine, copy their Bible, and take that with them.

Nancy: I’ve got my Revelation notes with me that are printed out from my computer. So I have one page for each chapter. They’re dog-eared, but I carry those around.

Janet: I do that when I’m on the treadmill, because a lot of my spirals, now the writing is so small that I can’t read my own writing.

Nancy: That has something to do with our age, perhaps.

Janet: Yes. Or, I have a friend who has the whole Bible on her phone. Well, if you’re a high “techy” and you’ve got it on your phone . . . I mean, I wouldn’t even be able to read it!

So that’s the way I do it, and then I carry that with me everywhere I go. On Day One, I work on verse 1. Day Two, I do verse 1 and verse 2. Day Three, verses 1, 2, and 3. So each day keep adding another one.

You think, “Oh, that’s just a lot to do in one day!” What it does is forces you to think about it in the morning, think about it mid-morning, think about it at lunch, think about it in the afternoon.

That’s really where the benefit of memorizing Scripture comes in. It’s not so that you can memorize the Bible. It’s so you can be thinking God’s thoughts. Trading your thoughts for His. Meditating on what’s important to God instead of what’s important to yourself.

We are all so self-absorbed. I know I have been, and I continue to be self-absorbed. Yet Scripture memory is a great escape for me. It helps me escape from being self-absorbed, because I am now thinking about God’s thoughts instead of my own.

So that’s what I would do. Take that little Scripture memory spiral with me everywhere. It sits up on the ironing board. It’s sits up on the kitchen counter when I’m making lunches, when I’m making dinner. I take it with me when I vacuuming.

Nancy: You’re holding it in your hand right now.

Janet: Yes, and I have these all over the place. You can write an entire book on one of these little spirals.

Nancy: So what are you holding? Which ones do you have there?

Janet: This one is Galatians, and then I had a little bit of room at the end, so I did Luke 24. That’s one of the stand-alone chapters that I did. And then this one, I did passages that are just one chapter. So I did Isaiah 55, Isaiah 53, and John 1.

Nancy: How do you pick what to memorize?

Janet: Well, it’s really fun, because when I’m studying or reading, I’ll find something that really pricks my interest, and I think, “Oh, I want to get to know this! I want to go deeper here.” So that’s how I pick something.

Nancy: What are some of the passages or books that you think are good places to start? You’ve mentioned Psalm 1, Psalm 121. What are some others?

Janet: Any of the psalms. Sometimes there are psalms that have now turned into songs, and it’s amazing how people are able to remember a song much easier than something that’s written in the Bible. But if you do it the exact same way, then it is easier.

Also, Proverbs. I’ve done Proverbs 2, Proverbs 4, and then the most recent passage that I did is Proverbs 8. It’s all about wisdom.

Recently I was saying, “God, I need more wisdom.” I wanted to go deeper in the area of wisdom. So I’ve finally memorized Proverbs 8.

Nancy: I’ve got to tell you a funny story about the book of Proverbs.

Janet: Okay, good.

Nancy: This is years ago. I had a friend—we were in our early twenties. She was dating a guy, and she came to me one night and said, “This guy said to me that we can’t talk about the possibility of marriage until we both memorize the book of Proverbs! What do I do?”

Her eyes were just as big as yours are right now. He had given her this challenge, that before they would talk about marriage, they would memorize the book of Proverbs. She said, “What do I do?” I said, “Well, memorize it.”

Janet: Starting from chapter one.

Nancy: I said, “I’ll do it with you.” So the three of us started working on the book of Proverbs.

Now, I went on and actually did memorize the book of Proverbs. Neither she nor he, I don’t think, ever finished it. And they didn’t get married. But it turned into a great experience for me.

It’s not one I could quote today. But for the months and months and months that I worked on that, it was just such a huge blessing in my life.

I remember thinking at the time, children have an amazing capacity for memorizing things, and if I were a parent, I would want to get my child, in their eighteen years that they’re at home, memorizing the book of Proverbs. They could do it.

Now, moms are sitting there saying, “There is no way I could do that.” And that may not be. That certainly isn’t the place to start.

That may not be the one book that the Lord wants you to do. But your children could memorize tons of Scripture, Proverbs and elsewhere, and carry that with them all through their lives.

So it’s an impact not only on you but on your children. It’s something I really encourage moms to get their children doing.

Janet: I’d love to tell a story about children memorizing Scripture. There is a Christian school in Orlando. In the fourth grade (so these are 9- and 10-year-olds) a very wise teacher said, “Well, we have three verses a week,” and they memorized the book of James during that fourth grade year. All the students in her class.

Then at the very end, they recited it before all the parents. The entire book of James—9- and 10-year-olds—because the teacher thought, “Okay, we can just add three verses a week.”

Nancy: “Line upon line, precept upon precept” [see Isaiah 28:10].

Janet: We think, “Well, let’s give children the easy ones.” No, give children the long ones. They’re brains aren’t as full as ours are.

Nancy: My nieces and nephews are in a Christian school where they’re memorizing passages of Scripture. I remember on one occasion they were having to quote it all at the end of the year, and they were feeling a little frazzled by that.

I said, “You quote your Scripture and Aunt Nancy” and there was a little benefit or reward to this, but I want those kids learning the Scripture. I am so glad they’re in a school setting with parents who are encouraging their children to memorize Scripture.

I know some of your children are in AWANA and are learning verses, but you don’t want your children to be the only ones getting that benefit. You want to be doing that yourself.

Now you said, Janet, a little bit ago, that your goal was not just to memorize the Bible, though you’re well on your way to that. But your goal is to know God and know His Word.

Talk about how your thinking about God has changed as you spent these last 17 years hiding God’s Word in your heart. What difference has it made?

Janet: It has totally revolutionized my life, and that’s not an overstatement, because honestly, everything that God wanted us to know about Himself, He put in His Word. Now, He hasn’t told us everything that there is to know about Him, but everything that He wanted us to know about Himself, He put in His Word. Jesus said that all the secrets of the kingdom of God have been given to you [see Luke 8:10].

So little by little, verse by verse, book by book, God has just pushed out the boundaries that I had put God in. He’s not the God that I used to know. He’s the God that I always wanted to know.

But as I go deeper in the Word, even today, every day, I ask, “God, reveal Yourself to me. Show Yourself to me.” It’s not about the accomplishment of checking it off. It’s the process. During the day saying God’s thoughts. Saying them over and over and over until you get what it is He’s saying to you. That’s how God speaks to me.

Nancy: So it’s really meditation on God’s Word that is making the difference.

Janet: Yes, it is, because you think about the character of God or your perception of the character of God, and then you come across these Scriptures that are just showing you that God is deeper than what you thought. He’s vaster.

The sovereignty of God is incomprehensible , but the more we grasp it, that’s what our faith is based on! If our picture of God is small, that’s what our faith will be.

So even though I’m having a very large trial in my life right now, my picture of God is huge. I’m not asking God why. I’m asking God, “What now? What do You want from me? Show me the way, and I will walk in it.”

Nancy: You said you have a trial in your life, and I know one of the books you’ve memorized is 1 Peter, which all five chapters are on the theme of suffering. So I’m assuming that that Scripture has taken on new meaning for you as you’re walking through this current trial.

Janet: Yes, it’s still one of my very favorite books. It’s one of the first ones that I did. Peter tells us that trials come in our life to prove that our faith is genuine.

That really goes against what we would think. We would think trials would hurt our faith. No, God sends trials to prove our faith.

Nancy: And actually to strengthen our faith.

Janet: To strengthen our faith.

Nancy: You read about that in 1 Peter, chapter 1. Can I get you to quote that chapter for us?

Janet: Yes.

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.

Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,

“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.

(1 Peter 1, NIV)

Nancy: What a blessing, to hear 1 Peter 1 quoted by a woman who has it not only in her mind and on her lips but in her heart and her life as well. Did you catch the emphasis at the end of that chapter on the Word of God? It talks about the living and enduring Word of God. We’re reminded that the grass withers and the flower falls, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.

We’re encouraging our listeners this year to get into God’s Word and get God’s Word into them, and to do that by means of Scripture memorization. One resource that you’ll find very helpful in this process is the book Janet Pope has written called His Word in My Heart: Memorizing Scripture for a Closer Walk with God.

If you’re desperate to have God and His Word as a constant source of nourishment for your weary, frazzled soul, then I want to encourage you to get this book and not only to read it, but to follow through in the practical helps that Janet provides as you make Scripture memory a part of your life, hopefully for the rest of your life.

Leslie: Here’s how you can get a copy of the book Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been describing. Just make a donation of any amount by calling 800-569-5959. Janet Pope’s book, God’s Word in My Heart, will be our gift to you. Or you can visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Now, keep that web address in mind. It will be helpful in a number of ways. First, you can donate any amount and get a copy of Janet’s book. Second, you can interact with Janet. She’s part of the Revive Our Hearts listener blog today. Finally, you can sign up to memorize Scripture with our listeners.

Sign up for the Daily Connection when you visit our website. This e-newsletter includes encouragement as you learn to memorize God’s Word. Each month our listeners tackle a new passage. Get the details at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Discipline. It’s an intimidating word. Janet Pope says in order to memorize Scripture, you don’t need more discipline. Instead, you need more hunger. Find out why on the next Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.

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