Revive Our Hearts Radio

You Have the Ability to Memorize!

Nancy Epperson: I wish there were a magic formula on memorizing Scripture. It would be wonderful.

Leslie Basham: Nancy Epperson has had a lot of experience putting God’s Word to memory.

Nancy Epperson: It’s nothing radical. It’s just basically repetition. 

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, May 21.

The habits you develop this year will have a huge effect on the rest of your life, especially if you develop the habit Nancy and her guest are about to discuss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: My friend, Nancy Epperson, and I were just talking about how it seems Scripture memorization is something of a lost art. You don’t hear a lot about it anymore, and yet I’m excited to discover that there are people who are encouraging Scripture memory now.

I asked Nancy if she would step with us into this make-shift studio. We’re actually at a convention together. She agreed to leave her family for a little bit and come and talk with us about her testimony of Scripture memorization.

Nancy, thank you so much for joining us on Revive Our Hearts.

Nancy Epperson: Oh, you’re welcome. It’s a joy to be here.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss:  Nancy’s husband, Stu Epperson, is the chairman of the board at Salem Communications. Since we began Revive Our Hearts, we’ve had more opportunity to run into each other. They have four children, sixteen grandchildren—a great family that is seeking the Lord.

But one of the things, Nancy, that has intrigued me about you over the years is your love for Scripture memorization. We’ve never really had a chance to sit down and talk about why you do it, how you got started. I just wanted an example, a testimony for our listeners, to hear something of your story.

Do you remember when you first started memorizing Scripture?

Nancy Epperson: I do. I will have to tell you, I was born in Hawaii and grew up in California. I did not come from a Christian home. When I was fourteen, I heard the gospel for the first time, and it just blew me away. I was absolutely blown away by this wonderful message. So accepted Christ, and my whole life was turned around. It just radically changed everything.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: The gospel has a way of doing that, doesn’t it?

Nancy Epperson: Oh, it does. "It is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes" (Rom. 1:16).

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: How did you hear the gospel?

Nancy Epperson: Well, a neighbor invited me to go to church with her, so I went. The pastor was Jack MacArthur, the father of John MacArthur.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Wow.

Nancy Epperson: He was a dynamic preacher. I’ll just never forget how that impacted my life.

As soon as I became a Christian, my life was so transformed. I just had this insatiable hunger and thirst to learn more about the Lord and His Word.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: As a fourteen-year-old?

Nancy Epperson: I did. Yes. It was just a driving force. When he would quote a verse, I would write down the reference. I would go home and put it on a 3 x 5 card and just go over it and over it until I memorized it. 

We’re told in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” That’s what I so desired. I wanted His Word to dwell in me richly, and I wanted it to just spill over. I knew the only way that could happen was through memorizing.

Then another thing happened. I stumbled on a very interesting verse. In Joshua 1:8, it says,

This book of the law shall not depart out of [your] mouth, but [you] shall meditate therein day and night, that [you may] observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then [you] will make [your] way prosperous, and then [you’ll] have good success.

I thought, “Oh, that’s so interesting. This promises if I’ll mediate on God’s Word, God promises I’ll be a success.” I wanted to be a success. I wanted at that time to be a successful student, witness, church member. I just wanted to bring glory to God. I didn’t want to be mediocre. I wanted to be the best I could be for the Lord.

When I stumbled on that, I got so excited, and then I read Psalm 1:

Blessed [happy] is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. (vv.1-3)

Now, I don’t think that means that I was going to be rich or have a lot of material things, but I do believe that means God’s hand of blessing will rest on your life if you will hide His Word in your heart and meditate on it.

Then I began to look into it even more, and I found in Psalm 63:5-6, it says:

My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.

There is such a joy that comes with meditating on God’s Word. I am often awakened in the night. In fact, every night of my life I wake up at some point, and I think on God’s Word. Obviously, I don’t want to turn on the light and wake up my husband, disturb him, but I just lie there and meditate. It’s such a blessing.

Then in Psalm 119:99-100, it says:

I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.

So there is a wisdom that comes from meditating on Scripture.

Then in 1 Timothy 4:15 it says:

Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them [completely to them]; that thy profiting may appear to all.

So there again, as we meditate on Scripture, it will be apparent to those around us that something’s going on in our lives. I think part of the reason is, to meditate on God’s Word, well, you have to memorize it. As you’re memorizing Scripture, you’re forced to think on it because one of the important principles in memorizing is actually to understand exactly what it is you’re memorizing, and the whole act is an act of worship.

As you’re memorizing and meditating, everything about it forces you to think on God’s Word. The more you spend time in the Word of God, the more you get to know the Author of that Book. The more you get to know Him, the more you love Him, because to know Him is to love Him. The more you love Him, it just kind of spills out. It just spills out all over.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Now, our listeners can’t see what I’m seeing, and that is that you’re quoting all these Scriptures without a Bible in front of you. You’re not looking at any notes, and you didn’t flip the pages, which is okay to do on this program. But this is in your head; it’s in your heart; it’s in your memory.

Nancy Epperson: It is.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Are these verses you memorized a long time ago? Have you reviewed them recently? They’re just right on the tip of your tongue. How is that?

Nancy Epperson: They are, and it’s probably because I meditate on them. When you meditate, what happens is you just internalize the Scripture. By internalizing it, by thinking on it, you just kind of lock it into your soul. 

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Do you do that systematically? Do you have a list of Scriptures that you want to keep fresh?

Nancy Epperson: Yes. Obviously I can’t meditate every day on all the Scriptures, so I have to do certain Scriptures each day of the week. Once you’ve started memorizing books of the Bible, which I have, obviously I can’t meditate on all of them. I’d be meditating all day long. So I have to break it up.

I redeem the time. When I’m driving, I’m quoting Scripture and thinking on God’s Word. When I’m in the doctor’s office—I always have my Bible. So if I’m not reading my Bible, I’m meditating on Scripture.

I had to have an MRI. I’m going to tell you, if I had not had God’s Word in my heart and in my life, I would never have gone through that. But I’ll tell you exactly what I did. I just closed my eyes, and I just thought on the Word of God. I can tell you it was forty-five minutes, and it was just the sweetest time of fellowship. I actually left that procedure with a heart full and just with a joy. It was a blessed time with the Lord.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Some people would leave that procedure thinking they were going crazy.

Nancy Epperson: Yes, because it’s so loud and noisy. But I just blocked it out and thought on God’s Word. It was just a precious time.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Do you write the Scriptures out on cards or type them out?

Nancy Epperson: Yes. I wish there were a magic formula on memorizing Scripture. It would be wonderful.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’re all waiting for that, but you’re telling us there isn’t one?

Nancy Epperson: There is one, but it’s nothing radical. It’s just basically repetition.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: No shortcuts.

Nancy Epperson: There are no shortcuts. What I do is, first of all, if possible, find a partner. Most people have a friend, somebody who wants to memorize. In fact, I don’t know any Christian who doesn’t want to memorize Scripture. They usually feel so frustrated because they don’t, but they want to.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Sometimes they feel like they can’t.

Nancy Epperson: Many times they feel like they cannot, and I could give you many stories about people who discovered they can.

Then pick a passage or a verse. If they have a problem with fear, you can pick verses like “Great peace have they [that] love thy law: nothing shall [disturb] them” (Ps. 119:165). Or, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isa. 26:3). Just pick verses that would deal with whatever you’re dealing with.

I tell people, and this is crucial for Christians, the first thing every Christian needs to learn is the plan of salvation. All Christians, shame on you if you do not know verses to lead someone to Christ. You should know:

  1. Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”
  2. Romans 5:8: “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
  3. Romans 3:10: “There is none righteous, no, not one.”
  4. Romans 10:9: “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

These are just crucial verses that people should know, and I just encourage every Christian to memorize basic salvation verses. It’s just so important that we Christians can point people to Christ.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: And that we can remind ourselves of what it is God’s done for us.

Nancy Epperson: Yes. Exactly. There are many times I don’t have my Bible. I have had the joy of leading people to the Lord in the swimming pool at the Y.M.C.A. I don’t have a Bible, and I’ll get to talking to someone.

I’ll never forget this one couple. The woman had been a Christian for years, and the husband was not a believer. I would say they were around fifty. I was at the Y swimming away, and I got to talking with them. She’d prayed for her husband for years. I got to talking with them, and I began to present the plan of salvation.

I went through Scripture and pointed him to the way he could know the Lord. It was funny because the swim team was practicing—they were blowing whistles, and there was all kinds of racket. But there in that pool, that man bowed his head and prayed to receive Jesus Christ.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Isn’t that great. Praise the Lord.

Nancy Epperson: His wife was just rejoicing. I remember, I told him, “I’m going to bring you a Bible.” So the next day I came back to the Y, and I had a Bible for him (in a zip-lock baggie so it wouldn’t get wet). I said, “Here’s your Bible. I want you to read it because we’re told in 2 Peter 3:18: “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” I explained to him the importance of growing spiritually. That was such a joy.

In the dentist’s chair I was able to witness to my dentist. He came to Christ and his wife. I remember his wife said, “My husband came home and said, ‘I met the strangest lady today in my office.’”

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: It’s kind of hard to talk when the dentist has got his hand in your mouth.

Nancy Epperson: It is, but before he was able to do much, I was able to get a few words out, and then eventually he did come to Christ.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: And, of course, the power is in the Word.

Nancy Epperson:

The word of God [which we’re told] is quick, and powerful, and sharper than a twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)

The power is in the Word. He promises His Word will not return unto Him void.

That is why I love to quote Scripture, because I know God will honor His Word. That is why I think it is so crucially important for Christians to learn Scripture.

Now, I started to tell you the steps involved.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Get a partner.

Nancy Epperson: Get a partner. Pick a passage or verses that are relevant. Then once you pick your verses, determine how many you want to learn. Don’t be too ambitious. Do you know that if you just learn one verse a week, that’s 52 in a year? Think about that. That’s a lot. So don’t be too ambitious to start, but pick the number you want to memorize—one or two or however many.

You want to agree on the translation—pick the one that you both want to use. Actually, right now my partner is one of my former 9th grade Sunday school girls. She has graduated from college. She’s in full-time Christian work, and we still meet. She actually memorizes from a different translation than I do, but it’s fine, because we both bring our Bibles. We both check with each other and make sure we’ve got it straight. It’s better if you both have the same translation, but don’t let that stop you.

So, pick your partner. Pick your passage. Pick the number of verses. Pick the translation you want to use. Then decide on a time when you can meet and quote to each other. So give yourselves a week and then at the end of the week—wherever you see each other, at church on Sunday, you quote to each other. That accountability really does help.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Yes. I do this with a walking partner, and it’s been so helpful.

Nancy Epperson: Great. Well, I haven’t always had a partner, but a lot of my Christian life I have had a partner. It’s an encouragement to both parties.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Yes.

Nancy Epperson: Now, it’s absolutely essential that you understand every word in the verse. So you want to look up all the words and be sure that you’re comprehending what it is you’re memorizing.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So you’re not just doing it by rote.

Nancy Epperson: Exactly.

And when you go over it, don’t just read through it, but think about it.

For example, if you were going to memorize Romans 12:1, and you’re at home, and you’re going over your card, because you put it on a 3 x 5 card, I don’t want you to go over it this way: (talking very fast) “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

Don’t do that.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Because you’re not really thinking about what you’re saying.

Nancy Epperson: You’re not thinking. So when you’re working on that verse, think about it. (talking very slowly)

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

Think about it because remember, the entire process is a blessing. During the memorizing the ultimate goal to mediate, the whole process is an act of worship. So don’t look on it as a means to an end, but look on the whole process as an act of worship.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: So you do write out the verses?

Nancy Epperson: I do, yes.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Do you do it by hand, or do you type them?

Nancy Epperson: I’ve done it both ways.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I like to have mine typed out on sheets of paper that I keep with me. They’re all folded up and dog-eared, but my handwriting wouldn’t be real helpful.

Nancy Epperson: Right. I’ve done both, but I find when I do a whole book, for example, the book of James took me four months. It was on sixteen typewritten 3 x 5 cards. It was something like six or eight verses a week, and most of the cards, the verses were on one side, but some of them spilled over to the other side, but it was sixteen cards. I did a card a week, and it took me, as I said, four months.

At the end of four months, I could stumble through the book of James. It took me yet another four months to really think on it more and to internalize it. That’s what you want to do, to make it a part of you, so that it would flow like rivers of living water.

That’s the point I want to arrive at. When I am memorizing Scripture and meditating on it, I want it to flow from within the depths of my soul. In order for that to happen, you have to really meditate on it and think on it and internalize it.

Leslie: Nancy Epperson has provided many practical steps on memorizing the Bible. She and our host, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, will continue that conversation tomorrow.

We’d like to send you a tool to help you memorize God’s Word. Nancy Epperson has recorded several passages on CD. It’s called “Powerful Scriptures.” We’ll send you a copy when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Your support means a lot to us as we encourage women to study God’s Word. And, as Nancy Leigh DeMoss explains, the message of Revive Our Hearts isn’t just affecting women.

Nancy: One of the neat things that happen when women embrace God’s design for women, it will encourage men to be men as well.

As I’ve said often on this program, my calling is to speak to women, but men sometimes do eavesdrop on the program. That's okay. They don't have to turn in their "man card." One of those listeners is Robert. He wrote and said, “Revive Our Hearts has helped me understand my wife better.” Robert told us that he wasn’t engaged with his family during the first years of marriage and caused a lot of hurt. But in his twenty-eighth year of marriage, he and his wife renewed their vows, and he started listening to Revive Our Hearts.

He wrote, “My wife is the most important person in my life. She is my best friend. Revive Our Hearts helped me realize this. I am not sure you realize that men can also learn from Revive Our Hearts.

We’re able to speak to people like Robert and his wife because listeners support the ministry financially. And I’m so thankful for everyone who has supported Revive Our Hearts here in the month of May. As we've been sharing, this is the end of our fiscal year, May 31 (ten or eleven days from now), when we close the books and make plans and budgets for a new year.

I want to say a huge thank you to every listener who has supported Revive Our Hearts during this important time. And a special thank you to all the first-time supporters who have given toward a matching challenge of $100,000. 

I want to let you know that we have quite a ways to go to meet that challenge. So if you haven’t yet given toward these fiscal year-end goals, would you ask the Lord how He might want you to participate? 

When you send a gift of any amount today, we want to send to you a CD that's been produced by Nancy Epperson, who you have been listening to today. The CD is called "Powerful Scriptures to Uplift, Comfort, and Encourage Your Heart." It's Nancy Epperson reciting by memory a number of psalms, the entire book of Philippians, the book of James, and the book of 1 John.

As you've heard, for over thirty years Nancy's been memorizing the Bible and encouraging others to do the same. I find at times when my spirit just needs to be encouraged or uplifted, it's great to put on a CD like this that is just the Scripture. As I listen to it, it washes over my heart. It strengthens me; it encourages me; it gives me faith to go on.

As you listen to this Scripture being recited from memory, I think it will encourage you that you too can memorize Scripture—and not just memorize it in your head, but get it into your heart and your life.

So when you make a donation of any amount today, we want to offer you this CD, "Powerful Scriptures" by Nancy Epperson. Just ask for the CD when you call us at 1-800-569-5959, or visit us at You'll have a chance there to make a donation and let us know you would like a copy of this CD, "Powerful Scriptures" from my friend, Nancy Epperson.

Leslie: “But I can’t memorize.” If that’s what you’re thinking after hearing today’s interview, we have some good news for you. Hear from Nancy Epperson again tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the King James Version.


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

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