“Supper’s ready! Let’s say the scripture passage, and then we’ll pray.”
“What? We can’t eat until we say the whole thing?”
“I haven’t learned the next part!”
“I’ll never get it right!”
These comments abound on our Challenge trips because the participants must memorize scripture as part of the experience. As incentive, they must recite the assigned passage before everyone can eat supper. These passages are longer than the random verses students memorize for the moment to gain team points at church camp. Depending on the length of the trip, they may commit to memory entire chapters.
Why? Because throughout scripture, God told us to “remember!” In the Old Testament, God established feasts, and the patriarchs often erected markers—both to help the Israelites remember the things God had done. Jesus told the disciples to remember Him when they ate the bread and drank the cup. God knows we humans are rather fickle and will readily forget things unless we make an effort to plant His word in our hearts.
King David understood this: I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You (Ps. 119:11). As a matter of fact, David gave us several reasons to make God’s Word part of our mental library. Throughout Psalm 119, he pointed out God’s statutes are our counselors (vs. 24), a source of wisdom (vs. 98) and discernment (vs. 125), and our window to His truth (vs.30) and “wonderful things” (vs.18). David testifies in verse 140 that God’s promises have been “thoroughly tested,” and he loves them—so much so that David has assessed his own ways and has chosen to turn his steps to God’s statutes (vs. 59).
Why is it that we annually vow to “read through the Bible” in a year, but don’t hear anyone committing to memorize scripture? Maybe we think such an exercise is for children and Bible college students. Maybe we think we are too old. In our Bible study last week, a woman mentioned that it seems to be more difficult to memorize scripture than it was when she was younger. Should that stop us from trying?
There are so many ways to take in God’s word. Some people readily write out and memorize passages, but a lot of people complain that they just can’t memorize. There are recordings of scripture which can be very helpful as you listen to them repeatedly. Have you ever tried singing scripture? After all, the Israelites sang all the Psalms. So you can’t sing? Try simply speaking scriptures in rhythm—kinda like rap music. For right-brain learners, it is helpful to print the desired scripture in large letters on a poster and pin it high on a wall. Then holding the head steady, they can lift their eyes to review it several times a day. Even better is to super impose the words on pictures to create a rebus or a type of pictogram. The learner can then simply “take a picture” of the passage with his mind, so that when wanting to remember the verse, he can easily take it out of his mental “file” and read it. Finally, find a partner and help each other. In prompting your partner as you hold a cure card, you will learn the scripture, too.
I can’t say I regularly follow my own advice given here, but I do know my days go better when I follow Paul’s admonition to the Philippians: …whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Memorizing scripture is the best way I know to comply.
Shall we make a pact to be more intentional about hiding God’s Word in our hearts?
Ah, the aroma of supper cooking over the campfire mixed with the odor of students’ bodies drenched in sweat! There’s nothing quite like the smells of a wilderness expedition, smells that will transport me back to the adventure every time I encounter them for years to come. Then there are other scents that I would prefer to avoid forever.
A recent trip began with the air full of a pleasant mixture of excitement, anticipation, and adventure, laced with a hint of anxiety. As we settled into a routine, my nose welcomed the familiar scents each night—dinner, fire, and sweat—until one night. Amid setting up camp, I noticed a stench wafting into my nose, and my brain awoke to something different about this campsite. What was the source of this putrid smell, unpleasant but not completely overwhelming? It was dark, and we were tired. When a cursory search offered no sign of its source, we continued to set up camp with the limited beams of light from our headlamps, eager to get into our sleeping bags.
In the morning, the smell was worse, and we had an answer. As we were breaking camp, someone stumbled upon the stench’s source: a rotting deer carcass lay no more than 15 feet away from where we had slept. Confronted with this reality, I felt the smell become overwhelmingly horrendous and wanted to vomit.
As we hiked briskly away and clean air refreshed me, words from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians struck me, “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life…” I have to be honest, it caught me a little off guard. But as I continued to reflect on that passage, I realized that smells are no insignificant thing.
In 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, Paul uses the imagery of a Roman triumph to convey his message. Whenever a Roman general would secure a great victory, the senate would declare a day of procession and pageantry to honor the conqueror. The conquered enemy would be paraded down the streets as the soldiers reenacted battle scenes and publicly humiliated the captives, marching toward their deaths. People would gather from many different places to celebrate the victory and fill the streets with aromas—burning incense, dousing themselves with costly perfumes, and feasting to their hearts content. For the Romans, the smells were associated with victory, but for the enemy, the smells signaled death.
Paul’s point was that we Christians have joined Christ in His triumphal procession, knowing that it will lead us to life. But for those who remain enemies, the procession is not as sweet for it will lead to death. Paul calls us to live in the victory of Christ, spreading the aroma of the celebration to all those we come into contact with.
As the trip went by, another peculiar smell began to accost my senses. A mixture of challenge with complacency arose from the stench of spiritual stagnation. The students became content with half-done tasks and were unwilling to discuss the deeper issues of the heart. The smell caused me to ask questions of my own life: Was I allowing the aroma of Christ to be strong in me? Was I living in the victory of His triumph over the enemy?
Near the end of the trip, the students spent twenty-four hours on a solo, separated from one another and in communion with the Lord. When we all gathered back together, the aroma of the group had changed. As the students shared their reflections one by one, an eagerness seemed to be contagious as the stench of stagnation was replaced with the vapor of victory.
When we climbed on the bus to return to camp, I got a whiff of strong body odor resulting from twelve people going a week without showers! I just smiled, knowing that these students would soon shower and enjoy being clean again. I also knew they already had a different spiritual scent, the aroma of Christ as they lived in the victory of Christ’s triumph over the enemy.
Come along side us as we journey in and out of the wilderness, discovering our Creator in creation.