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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Final Reflections

Forty-five weeks ago, I heard God's call and embarked on a journey.  I thought it would be fun.  I thought it would be challenging.  I thought it would test my perseverance.  But I never thought it would be this life-changing.

It seems obvious to me now; if a person memorizes 879 verses of Scripture, there is going to be a profound impact.  I just never expected this experience would have such an effect on my attitude, my heart, my mind, and my life.  It's like I started out in search of a cup of water and discovered the ocean.

I have memorized the entire Book of John.  All 21 chapters, all 879 verses.  But I didn't do it.  It was done to me.  When I began, I imagined the sense of accomplishment and pride I would feel at achieving such a lofty goal.  But here at the end, I can honestly say that I do not feel an ounce of pride or accomplishment.  Rather, I am overcome with humility at what the Lord has done.  He did it.  He invited me to complete this task.  He motivated me daily.  He encouraged me when I got tired and frustrated.  He held my hand when I was overwhelmed.  He instilled in me a supernatural excitement about learning His Word.  He blessed me with the gift of understanding as I meditated on each verse.  He cleared my mind and allowed it to focus on Him, His Words, His thoughts, His message.  I was just along for the ride.  I take no credit for this accomplishment.  I could sense throughout the whole experience that I had nothing to do with it; I just showed up each day.  Like I said, I didn't do it.  It was done to me.

Let me start by listing some things that did NOT happen as a result of this experience:
  • I could not get any outside help. There was no way around the task and no strategies to make it any easier.  It was just between God and me.
  • I did not become any less of a sinner.  I guess knowing a lot of Bible verses doesn't make you immune to sin.
  • Resisting temptation did not get any easier. In fact, it was often even more frustrating because my desire to obey was so great, that it hurt that much more when I fell.
  • Merely memorizing the verses did not get me any closer to God unless I diligently pursued the message behind them.
Trying to compile a list of what I have learned seemed futile.  Words are just unable to describe the magnitude of what has happened to me.  These are just a few things that I learned while memorizing the Book of John:
  • I saw firsthand how miserably human beings consistently fail.
  • I saw how perfectly God loves us despite our sin and failures.
  • We are so inadequate without Him and no matter how hard we try, we can't get around the fact that we need Him.  For everything.
  • I learned that despite our shortcomings, He still invites us to work alongside Him.  What an honor!
  • He enjoys being with us.
  • He is always kind, loving, and good.  He continues reaching out to us; He stands at the door and knocks.  He doesn't condemn us for our unbelief but continues to love us and wait for us to turn to Him. 
  • He provides absolutely everything for us whether or not we realize it or have thankful hearts.
  • We show our love and devotion to God by our commitment to obedience.  Thankfully, God gives us the desire as well as the ability to obey.
  • God is just so great.  And we are nothing unless we have Him.
  • The things that I have learned about God through this study have surpassed my ability and vocabulary to express them.  I'm going to have to share John's words on this one:  "If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written."  21:25
This is the God we serve.  Let's get excited!  Let's get blown away by His Greatness!  Over the past year, I was consistently amazed at how God would reveal Himself to me in new and amazing ways.  Each day was an exciting, breathtaking exploration into the character and heart of Jesus.  His presence was never so close, so real, so tangible.  He consistently met with me each and every day and never failed to teach me something new as long as I was seeking and willing to learn.

There is something special about memorizing long portions of the Gospel.  These are some of my favorites quotes from a blog by "John Project" about his experience memorizing John.
  • "I recited 10 chapters today in my review time almost flawlessly, and I am not ashamed to say that afterword's I just wept at the beauty and power of God through his word, and that he gave me such a gift, to be a vessel, a container of the words of life, what a privilege."
  • "Its like the words are alive, almost in a physical sense yet not, but...alternating or phasing almost imperceptible, between dimensions."
  • "Its like they want to slip off the pages and proclaim themselves but are held back by a supernatural force; and yet, here I am, absorbing these supernatural "scribblings" so called into my brain....and I can feel them, swirling around in my being, transforming my way of thinking...."
  • "And although I have read them over and over for many number of years, it wasn't till I started to commit them to memory that I realized, I'm getting my freaking mind blown!"
I too have read through John many times.  But when I started to commit the verses to memory, I got my freaking mind blown.  That's pretty much all there is to it.  We have no idea the kind power that is locked inside God's Word.  Shame on us for taking it for granted.

My life has been transformed by taking a small part of that power and carefully depositing it into my heart each day:
  • I realized that everything is a "God thing".  I used to reserve that phrase for when something particularly great happened.  Now I know that God is truly in everything.  I see Him everywhere.  He is in the little things as much as the big things because my eyes have been opened to see Him more clearly.
  • I often spent large quantities of time working through a particular passage.  The verses would be on the forefront of my mind.  When that happened, I had an awareness of the Holy Spirit's presence throughout each and every moment of the day.  Those were the best days.  Never in my life have I felt more like the clay.  And what a blessing to have the Potter do His work in me. 
  • Before, I would often select a verse or two to memorize that would help me live a better life or to avoid a certain sin.  Now, I realize the wonder and fulfillment in memorizing Jesus.  What a joy to study HIM and learn every detail of His walk here on earth.
  • Before, there were two things of utmost importance to me:  my Quiet Time, and my workout.  But the workout always came first.  If I was short on time, my devotions were the first thing to go.  Now I realize that my spiritual life is far more important than anything else and my time with God ALWAYS comes first.  I haven't missed meeting with Him in many months.
  • I saw that when I showed up, God showed up.  It was that simple.  If I was seeking Him, I mean really, truly pursuing Him and longing with all my heart to hear from Him, He never let me down.  And when I sought Him on a consistent basis, I grew stronger and more mature in my faith than ever before.  Of course I knew this before, but it is profoundly different to experience it and to feel firsthand the magnitude of what God's presence can do in my daily life when my heart is truly surrendered to Him. 
  • I learned how important it is to memorize Scripture.  Sure, we can sit in the pew and nod our heads.  We can go to Bible Study and have a wonderful time of fellowship.  We can do our Quiet Time each day and read our designated passages.  Or we can read our happy, cutesie devotional book with the flowery pen and journal.  But nothing compares to inviting God into your heart by committing His very words to memory. 
  • My perspective has completely changed.  Things I used to find important are no longer that big of a deal.  I can see the bigger picture now.  I see the Gospel and understand what life is all about.  I am here to bring Him glory.  I am here to enjoy Him and to obey.  And maybe if I can keep an eternal perspective, I can have the honor of helping to build His Kingdom.  This attitude has had a far-reaching impact in how I spend money, how I spend my time, the thoughts I allow in my mind, how I treat others, and how I make plans and goals for my life.
  • I know Jesus better.  I have spent an immense amount of time with Him this past year.  As I meditated on His nature verse by verse, I was slowly transformed.  He drew me in so close and taught me great and wonderful things I never knew.  When I sing to Him in church now, I am really, really singing to Him.  When I pray, I am really, really talking to Him.  These are things I used to do before, but it's just different now. 
  • I understand now that God will always continue to open my eyes to new things.  I learned a lot through studying John, but I also realize that there is so much that I still don't know.  I could study it five more times and grow stronger in my understanding and deeper in my relationship each and every time.  I have only scratched the surface of the treasures that are within His Word.
  • I will never read the Bible in the same way again.  I have seen how much meaning is behind each and every word.  I have understood why seemingly meaningless details are included.  I have realized the usefulness of commentaries by godly men and the benefit of exploring the original Greek words.  These God-inspired books in the Bible are like paintings by gifted artists who used each stroke of the brush to add depth, color, and detail to create the most wondrous picture of God's ultimate message to us:  His love.
  • This will sound silly, but in many cases, I felt like I was there. Some chapters took so long to memorize and I had to repeat them so many times, the pictures in my mind became abundantly vivid and real. I can distinctly remember Jesus standing up and looking into the adulterous woman's eyes to tell her she was not condemned. And I can remember Jesus' expression when he asks Peter three times if he loves Him. I smelled the perfume that Mary poured on His feet and watched the blind man rejoice as his eyes were opened. I felt Jesus' rage when he overturned the tables at the temple and I watched in wonder as He calmed the storm. I saw the detachment of soldiers fall at the sound of His voice and I cried with Mary outside the tomb. I stood with Thomas and touched His hands while He looked at me with patience and love. I saw and believed. Honestly, it's like I was there.
  • There were times when I had doubts that I would be able to complete this task.  When I started, I figured I'd better memorize as fast as I could before the excitement wore off and I got tired of doing it.  But as I continued along, the excitement only grew.  I realized that the more I learned, the thirstier I was for more.  Jesus doesn't give as the world gives.  What He has to offer doesn't get old, it doesn't wear out, and you can't get sick of it. 
I don't know how much of the book of John I will be able to recite in 10 years, 5 years, 1 year, or even in a couple months.  But what I have gained through this experience can never fade away or be forgotten. 


Dear Family and Supporters,
Thank you for your patience and support as I completed this project.  Thanks for understanding how important this was to me and for sharing in my excitement as I went along.  I appreciate your encouragement and your commitment to your own Scripture memorization.  Pastor C. and Pastor E.,
I can't thank you enough for your support and guidance as I memorized the book of John. It is a privilege to be in your flock and I deeply appreciate the time you took to answer my questions. 

Dear Blog Reader,
I feel honored that you have chosen to join me throughout this life changing experience.  My prayer for you is that you will begin your own journey.  I hope that you will hear God's call on your own life, and that He will give you the courage, strength, perseverance, and excitement to obey.  Mary Magdalene stood outside the tomb looking right at Jesus and didn't know it was Him.  The fact is, He is here among us and invites us to enter into His kingdom and enjoy eternal life.  Will you recognize Him?  Or will you watch Him do amazing things and reject Him like the man at the Bethesda Pool?  Will you believe but allow your fear to prevent you from committing your life to Him like Pilate?  Or will you say, "Lord, I believe", like the blind man who was healed?  Don't read my blog and be a headshaker, nodding in agreement and then go back to your normal life.  Do something!  Get up!  Turn off the computer and pick up your Bible.  I hope that I have demonstrated the importance of Scripture memorization and adequately expressed the depth of impact it can have on one's life.  If I have, then please be inspired into action.    

Thank you, Jesus.

Signing off.   















 

11 comments:

  1. I am so thrilled and happy and praise God with you. isn't it Great?!

    Congratulations sister! I love your commentary and thank you for sharing the lessons that you learned. Wow! good stuff... especially what that guy John said.... Hehe, just kidding.

    I am so happy to know that there are other people who feel like you do about the word.
    I thought I was just going crazy. I almost feel inhibited around some Christians and can't really talk about what I am memorizing or feel I can share my verses for the day with them, because I don't want to sound holy-er then thou or have the "look at me" syndrome.

    But my prayer is that everyone would memorize his word. it just seems like it should be natural among his people. when I try to express how wonderful it is, our people don't understand what I am talking about.
    I try to make it sound like a fun project. You know, like "Hey everyone, lets get together and do a memory verse or a chapter together"

    When the answer is not interested, I don't feel superior, I feel confused.. I don't understand. If they could only feel what we feel, they would know the wonder, the beauty, the mind of our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ and how he thinks and how he looks at things and feels and understands, his love his mercy.. I can't explain it in words. its a supernatural thing.


    Anyway, this is your party, what did I miss?
    did you guys celebrate?
    I have been sick most of February but thank you Lord, I am better, One bad thing about living in Florida, if it goes below 67 we get cold and put on our long johns and down jackets.

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  2. Thanks so much for sharing in my joy as I completed the Gospel of John. You were certainly an inspiration for me and I can't tell you how much your support and encouragement has meant to me. No, we didn't have a party, but my reward was indeed great. As I was finishing the last few chapters, I became deeply interested in Jesus' disciples. I am deciding now whether to memorize 1 John or 1 Peter.

    Sorry to hear you were sick for the month of February. I hope you're feeling better and working at hard at proclaiming the Gospel! Sorry to see that you stopped your Mark blog. Sounds like exciting things are going on though. What is your Witnessing blog called so I can follow it?

    Thanks again, dear brother!

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  3. Wow, it's awesome to find others God has called to memorize the Book of John. I knew He wanted me too years ago, and I started, but then "let life get in the way." He is again bringing it up and I need to obey. I'm encouraged others have, and will read your earlier posts. May God bless you!

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    1. Congratulations on the wonderful opportunity God has given you by calling you to memorize His Word. My experience was similar. I felt He wanted me to do it years ago but I avoided doing it for several reasons. (Fear of such a large task, fear of failure, fear of such a time commitment, and busy-ness!) But just like you, years later, He called me again and I am so thankful I obeyed the second time around. Memorizing John was THE MOST powerful experience of my life and I am continuing to reap the benefits years later. I wish you all the best on your journey. I know for sure that God has great things in store for you!

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  4. Just to say thanks for this site(also the other one
    by "John Project" (who commented here that I heartily understand and can relate) these sites had encouraged me to pick John, such a great experience, glory to God. I've completed John a week ago though some chapters I'm still working on to cement to my permanent memory (I look forward that in long term of regular review I could recite then perfectly).

    here's my blog for memorizing New Testament, looking forward for God's daily grace to complete it...

    http://memorizent.blogspot.sg/

    It is good to know people even online who had the same desire and Love in God's words...God bless you all!

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    1. Congratulations on all your efforts. It is indeed wonderful that we can all support one another in the most rewarding endeavor - growing closer to God! Best wishes as you continue to memorize His Word.

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  5. I so much love this blog. I've now memorized almost 3/4s of John and meditated extensively on the whole book. My mind is also blown by how inexhaustible just this one book alone is. I'm trying to put together a strategy for others to have this experience, but you're right about all your points - the strategy is ultimately not a replacement for the decision just to do it. You are also right that 'it happens to us.' Many thanks for this blog. I confirm every word with my own experience.

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    1. Thank you so very much for your encouraging words! How wonderful to hear that you are having a similar experience. God's Word is so powerful! I wish you all the very best and God's richest blessings as you continue on your journey through His Word.

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  6. All of you, but especially the author are such an inspiration. I’ve thought about this for the last year and I decided to search for someone who also felt the call to undertake this as part of their walk.

    You writing this out is very motivational, thank you so very much.

    Did you ever undertake 1 John or 1 Peter?

    I known it’s been a long time, but I hope this message finds you and your family well and blessed by the Lord.

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. I am so happy to hear that you are motivated and inspired. It's funny you mention memorizing 1 Peter, because after I memorized John, that was what I wanted to do next. I have tried unsuccessfully a couple times. Peter uses really long and complicated sentences! But your positive feedback has motivated me to give it another shot.
      Thanks again for your kind words and best wishes. My family and I are doing very well. Because of how God worked in my life through the experience of memorizing John, we heard God's call to adopt a child, and my husband earned his Master's of Divinity and has been ordained. Our lives have been drastically changed through God's Word!
      Best wishes to you and yours as well - and keep memorizing!
      Heidi

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